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Cablegate: Challenge to Non-Turkish Synod Members of The

VZCZCXRO6658
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHIT #0607 1901156
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 091156Z JUL 07
FM AMCONSUL ISTANBUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7255
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS ISTANBUL 000607

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV TU
SUBJECT: CHALLENGE TO NON-TURKISH SYNOD MEMBERS OF THE
ECUMENICAL PATRIARCHATE

REF: A. 06 ISTANBUL 1717

B. ISTANBUL 0550

1. (SBU) Summary and comment. Ultra-nationalist attorney
Kemal Kerincsiz, citing the Turkish Higher Court of Appeals'
(Yargitay) June 26 rejection of the ecumenical nature of the
Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, requested the Governor of
Istanbul intervene to block the Holy Synod's July 7-10
meeting because it included six non-Turkish members and was
therefore illegal. Additional police stood guard and blocked
roads outside of the Patriarchate as early as midnight on
July 7 in anticipation of protests that, as of July 9, had
yet to materialize. The Synod meeting convened on July 7 and
8 as scheduled and is expected to continue the afternoons of
July 9 and 10. The Kerencsiz request is the first example of
the types of challenges the Ecumenical Patriarchate can
expect to face in the aftermath of the Yargitay's June 26
ruling. End summary.

2. (SBU) Ecumenical Patriarchate authorities confirmed on
July 7 that they anticipated protests after ultra-nationalist
attorney Kemal Kerincsiz -- previously known for bringing
Turkish Penal Code Article 301 (insulting "Turkishness")
charges against authors Orhan Pamuk and Elif Shafak (ref A)
-- accused the Patriarchate of violating the Yargitay's June
26 ruling (ref B) against the ecumenical nature of the
institution by including six non-Turkish members in its Holy
Synod, which was scheduled to meet July 7-10. At least a
dozen extra police were detailed to the Patriarchate and two
side streets leading to its compound in Istanbul's Fener
district were blocked as early as midnight the night before
the meeting. The heightened security remained in place by
the morning of July 9, though three days into the Holy
Synod's four-day assembly, no protests had yet to
materialize.

3. (SBU) In a separate but related development, according to
its press officer, the Ecumenical Patriarchate sent the
Governor of Istanbul a letter two months ago requesting work
permits for its foreign staff. (Note: This does not include
the foreign Synod members who only come to Turkey
periodically on visitor visas. End note.) Though we have
yet to confirm the veracity of his account, the press officer
told us that the Governor publicly stated on television that
he would not approve the Patriarchate's request and that he
would make all foreign staff at the Patriarchate leave
Turkey. The press officer added that Kerencsiz claims to
have collected over one million signatures on a petition he
plans to submit to President Sezer demanding that the
Patriarchate be kicked out of Turkey.

4. (SBU) Comment. The press officer's account of the
Governor of Istanbul's televised rejection of the
Patriarchate's request for foreign staff work permits is
puzzling since it should have been picked up by other media
sources and we have yet successfully to corroborate it.
Though this would seem to be an uncharacteristic reaction by
the Governor, it cannot be immediately discounted,
particularly if it was presented in the context of a response
to a question about the Yargitay's June 26 decision, which
will likely haunt the Ecumenical Patriarchate well beyond
Kerencsiz's current challenge regarding the Holy Synod. To
what extent will largely depend on how the new government --
that takes office after the July 22 election -- interprets
the Yargitay's ruling. The absence of a response to
Kerencsiz's call to demonstrations may be a positive sign
regarding the public's lack of concern over the issue and
discredits the assertion that he has collected one million
signatures demanding the ousting of the Patriarchate. End
comment.
JONES

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