No architectural assets in Tarsus house: First official statement after one year
Officials say no architectural assets are to be found under a house in the district of Tarsus in southern Turkey, which has recently been the subject of intense speculation and media reports. The statements come one year after controversial police-supervised digging first started began.
The statements from the Tarsus District Governor’s Office and the Mersin Provincial Directorate of Culture via the Prime Ministry Coordination Center (BİMER) came in response to a question posed on Oct. 3 by Salim Sağ, an International Relations student at Anadolu University.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Aytuğ Atıcı had claimed that the Vatican ordered illegal digging in Tarsus for St. Paul’s missing bible, though the Vatican later dismissed these claims as “fake news.”
Excavations originally began in 2015 but were quickly denounced by locals, who raised concerns over the legality of the digs. Police have been present at the site for the last year.
The authorities ordered the recent digs for “examination and research purposes,” according to the statement.
The statement confirmed the presence of amorphous terracotta particles onsite, but said that efforts to detect their age were still underway.
The digging took place periodically on account of seasonal factors, the statement said.
Meanwhile, Ahmet İpekoğlu, the owner of the house, has told reporters his version of events, daily Habertürk has reported.
İpekoğlu said he used to rent out his house to murdered police officer Mithat Erdal, who was killed in 2012 while investigating a gang of historical artifact smugglers in Tarsus.
The perpetrator of the murder, Hüseyin Yasak, was arrested and sentenced to 25 years in prison after he confessed to the officer’s murder.
İpekoğlu said he gave testimony to Erdal’s murder, adding that he and his family moved back into the house after the murder and stayed there for two years.
He said they had already vacated the house and moved to another house when the excavations started.
At this point he was no longer able to enter the house, adding that a gun was pointed at him if he attempted to gain entry.
“News in the television channels and newspapers are fake. They have been fruitlessly speculating ever since excavations began and wasting our time,” he said.
İpekoğlu also said that the person in charge of the excavation works was detained over suspected links to the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ).
İpekoğlu’s lawyer Mehmet Habip Ekmekçi has said that İpekoğlu’s house was literally being occupied.
“How can we defend ourselves legally? What if something happens? We want an official document ... If something is found there, we have a right to know. We will take all necessary initiatives,” he said.
Tarsus is a Turkish city 27 kilometers east of Mersin, best known as the birthplace of Paul the Apostle, commonly known as Saint Paul.