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Cablegate: Echr Decision Could Open Flood of Property Cases

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PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSK RUEHSL RUEHSR RUEHVK
RUEHYG
DE RUEHIT #0373/01 2741620
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 011620Z OCT 09
FM AMCONSUL ISTANBUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9238
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEUITH/ODC ANKARA TU
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ISTANBUL 000373

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM OSCE GR TU
SUBJECT: ECHR DECISION COULD OPEN FLOOD OF PROPERTY CASES

This cable is SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED, please handle
accordingly.

1. (U) Summary: The European Court of Human Rights has
handed down a ruling against Turkey in a case of property
rights for Greek citizens and inherited property in Turkey.
The ECHR determined that the confiscation of the Greek
citizen's property by the Treasury was illegal not only
according to domestic Turkish laws, but also in light of the
European Human Rights Convention. The decision is important
because it may invite potentially thousands of other
applications to the ECHR for cases in which the confiscation
of the property of Greek Orthodox Turkish citizens by the
Turkish Treasury violated the inheritance rights of Greek
citizen relatives. End Summary.

2. (U) According to the ECHR judgment issued September 29,
2009, following the death of Greek citizen Polikseni Foka
died in 2000, her Greek citizen brothers applied for the
rights to her property but did not receive a favorable
judgment from the Turkish courts. The brothers then applied
to the ECHR in 2002 with the claim that Turkey violated the
European Human Rights Convention provision on property
rights. According to the ECHR judgment, the brothers further
alleged that they had been discriminated against on the basis
of their ethnic origins and religious convictions.

3. (U) The relevant property consisted of immovable and
movable property, particularly three buildings in Istanbul
and income from rents, deposits, and valuable documents and
deeds. In July 1987, the Istanbul 3rd Civil Court decided
that the total of the above-mentioned property would be
transferred by way of inheritance to Polikseni Foka, who was
later transported by the police to a psychiatric center
(where she stayed until her death in 2000.) However, in 1997,
10 years after her entry into the center, the Turkish
authorities using decrees from 1964, annulled the 1987
decision by which Foka had inherited the property.. According
to these decrees, a Greek national has no right to inherit in
Turkey. Additionally, Turkey required that there be
reciprocity with the inheritance laws of Greece. Turkey
contended the Greek Government applied similar provisions to
persons of Turkish origins living in Greece and therefore
Turkey could not grant greater property rights to Greek
citizens.

4. (U) Under the 1997 decision, the property was transferred
to the Turkish Treasury, depriving Foka of her income from
rent after she had already paid the inheritance tax which was
due to the State. The applicant brothers in the case pointed
out that the 1964 decrees had been annulled in 1988 and
therefore Foka's property was unlawfully confiscated by the
Treasury in 1997. The brothers argued to the ECHR that "the
confiscation of Foka's property had been illegal, arbitrary,
and abusive even under the domestic law of Turkey." The ECHR
also affirmed the Greek Government's contention in the case
that in Greek law there was no provision prohibiting Turkish
citizens from inheriting immovable property in any place or
region of Greece, rendering moot Turkey's argument about
reciprocity. The ECHR found that there had been a violation
of Article 1 of Protocol Number 1 to the European Convention
of Human Rights and that there was no need to examine the
additional complaints of the applicants regarding
discrimination. In the judgment, the court invited Turkey and
the applicants to submit, within three months, their written
observations on the matter and to notify the Court of any
agreement that they may reach.

5. (SBU) Kezban Hatemi, a lawyer for the Greek Orthodox
Ecumenical Patriarchate, said that there were many other
Greek citizens, like the Foka brothers, whose inheritance
rights were not accepted by the Turkish judiciary. "Instead
of making impartial, bipartisan decisions, they brought the
issue to this point because of their prejudice because these
people are Greeks or Christians." According to Hatemi,
Turkey may face thousands of other cases as there is no
statute of limitations for inheritance cases.

6. (SBU) Comment: The Greek Orthodox community in Turkey -
less than 2,000 by most estimates - has shrunk significantly
since 1955 as families moved out of Turkey seeking a more
welcoming environment. As many have returned to Greece and
obtained full Greek citizenship, such cases may become more
common as families battle for inheritance rights. With some
exceptions where domestic legal decisions continue, the
Turkish authorities generally give effect to the ECHR

ISTANBUL 00000373 002 OF 002


decisions. For this reason we think the ECHR decision may
cause an upsurge both in the number of similar cases brought
to Turkish courts, as well as those that had already passed
through the Turkish court system and are now eligible for the
ECHR. End Comment.
WIENER

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