Property return sets legal precedent

Seized by the state with 1964 Decree, a landed property belonging to the former Ecumenical Patriarch Vapurci will be returned and registered in the name of his heirs by Supreme Court ruling. The legal victory paves the way for the return of other properties that were transferred to the Treasury with the Declaration.

Kemal Göktaş’s report for Milliyet newspaper states that the Supreme Court has approved the decision for the landed property, which was seized by the State in accordance with the 1964 Decree which introduced restrictions to the right of minority members of Greek origin, and on which later the Fenerbahçe Mosque was built, to be registered in the name of Stamatis Papamanolaki, 92, a legal heir of Vapurci, who currently lives in Greece. This legal victory also paves the way for the return of other properties that were transferred to the Treasury with the abovementioned decree. The report adds that Papamanolaki will not contest the presence of the mosque on the land, but will demand the material value of the land from the Treasury.

In 1949, Ernestuğ Vapurci purchased a mansion in the Kadıköy Zühtüpaşa Neighbourhood from Vatan Kümiziyan. When Ernestuğ Vapurci passed away in 1971, the mansion passed into the hands of his brother Maksimos Vapurci, who would go on to become the Phanar Patriarch, and his other brother Yani Vapurci. With the passing of Yani Vapurci in 1974, the mansion was inherited by his wife Kornilla Vapurci, who also obtained a certificate of inheritance from the court. In her will drawn up in 1982, Kornilla Vapurci left the mansion and its land to her adopted son Stamatis Papamanolaki, a citizen of Turkey of Greek origin.

Treasury seizes mansion

However, the Treasury filed for the cancellation of Kornilla Vapurci’s certificate of inheritance in accordance with the 1964 Decree. The Kadıköy 3. Civil Court approved the request of the Treasury, and in 1985 cancelled the certificate of inheritance. The mansion and its land passed into the hand of the state. As the case continued, Kornilla Vapurci also passed away, and the mansion was inherited by her adopted son Stamatis Papamanolaki. Following the court ruling, the mansion was demolished in 1986. Later, the Fenerbahçe Mosque was built on the site.

Court’s favourable ruling

In 2008, Papamanolaki appealed to the Kadıköy 1. Civil Court of First Instance requesting the return of the mansion and its land. The court underlined the fact that it was not in keeping with law that all the rights of only citizens of Greek-origin regarding their properties in Turkey had been restricted. The ruling stated that the ban on transfer brought to immovable assets of citizens of Greek-origin had to be interpreted as a temporary precaution, and that it should not annul the person’s property rights. On these grounds, the court ruled for the cancellation of the land deed in the name of the Treasury, and its registration in the name of the plaintiff. However, the Supreme Court’s 3. Civil Chamber reversed the local court’s verdict. The Civil Chamber’s ruling stated that the immovable asset had passed to the Treasury with the 1964 Decree, and that therefore, Kornilla Vapurci, the inheritor of the will that served as the basis of the plaintiff’s demand for deed registration in his name, had been shown by court ruling not to be the inheritor of Yani Vapurci in regard of the immovable asset.

The question of reciprocity

Yet the local court took a decision of insistence. The court underlined the fact that the 1964 Decree contained temporary precautions regarding the immovable assets of citizens of Greek origin, and drew attention to the fact that this decree had been annulled with a 1988 Cabinet Decision. Upon the local court’s decision of insistence, the file was brought to the Supreme Court Assembly of Civil Chambers. The Chamber affirmed the local court’s consideration regarding the provisions and outcomes of the 1964 Decree, however, reversed the ruling on the grounds that the case had to be also assessed in terms of reciprocity. The Chamber Ruling stated that a fact-finding investigation in regard of the principle of “reciprocity” needed to be carried out, and in the event that the investigation found that the immovable asset could be acquired by Kornilla Vapurci and that she was party to the property, the case would be accepted, and if not it would be rejected.

Treasury’s deed annulled

Assessments obtained from the Ministry of Justice International Law and Foreign Relations General Directorate, the Foreign Ministry and the General Directorate of Land Registry and Cadastre in response to the court’s question regarding reciprocity, stated that on 16 June 1974, the date of Yani Vapurci’s death, reciprocity was in force in regard to inheritance and acquisition of real estate property between the states of Turkey and Greece. Based upon these facts, the court ruled for the cancellation of the Treasury’s deed and the registration of the immovable asset in the name of Stamatis Papamanolaki.

Experts in the real estate industry and real estate dealers operating in the Fenerbahçe area estimate the worth of the land to be around 12 million dollars (27.9 million TL).

“True and fair verdict”

Papamanolaki’s lawyer Barış Tan, in explaining the process to the Milliyet newspaper, stated that decisions regarding the registration of immovable assets that belong to Greeks in accordance with the 1964 Decree could not be considered as definitive judgments even if they had been finalized after a Supreme Court review, and that therefore it was highly significant that the verdict has ruled that inheritors can claim their immovable assets:

“This was the toughest part of the case, since the Supreme Court had for years continued to take decisions that conflicted with the main tenets and theories of law, such as the seizure of the immovable assets of Greeks, and even the rejection of requests for certificates of inheritance. It has now been determined that the precautions introduced by the 1964 Decree were temporary, and also that court verdicts given on the basis of the Decree are also of a temporary nature. This is a true and fair verdict. In taking this decision, the court did not take into account that there was a mosque on the land, or if the plaintiff succeeded, the land would pass into the hands of a non-Muslim. Both the local court and the Supreme Court judged in an impartial and unprejudiced manner.”


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