The State of Turkey, after having seized a building that belongs to the Bulgarian Exarchate Orthodox Church Foundation, is now demanding a fee in return for occupying the building for 3 years –after returning the building to the foundation. The Treasury has issued a 50 thousand TL fine to the foundation.
The 166-year old building, used by the religious officials of the St. Stephen Church, also known as ‘Demir Kilise’ [lit. Iron Church] since its main skeleton is made of steel and is covered by metal boards, was seized in 2000 by the Ministry of Finance General Directorate of Real Estate on the pretext that it was an ‘unused building’ although it was being used by the Foundation at the time. Its deed was registered under the Ministry of Finance. However, even after the registration, permission was issued for it to be used by the Foundation.
Following the new regulation to the Law on Foundations for the return of properties of minority foundations, the Bulgarian Foundation applied to the General Directorate of Foundations for the return of the building. In 2012, the Directorate returned the building and the land plot of the Church and the Şişli Vocational High School of Industry to the Foundation.
However, following the return of the property, the Revenue Office issued a decision of adequate pay, or in other words, a fine of 50 thousand TL for the period the building was registered under the Treasury. The Revenue Office demands an occupancy fee for the period from 1999 to 2012.
Following the decision of the Revenue Office, the bank accounts of the Foundation have been sequestrated. The Foundation now has to pay the fine to the State for a building that belongs to it.
The Bulgarian Foundation has reacted to the procedure. Milko Peçatikov, a member of the Foundation administration pointed out the absurdity of the decision to issue a fine for a property that belongs to the foundation. Peçatikov said, “Our property, which is listed in the 1936 Declaration, was seized. We have the records; our deed was for many years in the hands of the Treasury. We secured its return. Now we face this bizarre implementation.”