Mosque’s land in Istanbul to return to Greek-origin citizen

Mosque’s land in Istanbul to return to Greek-origin citizen

Mosque’s land in Istanbul to return to Greek-origin citizen A precious plot on Istanbul’s Anatolian side, where a mosque is now located, has been returned to the 92-year-old sole heir of former Fener Greek Patriarch Maximus V, daily Milliyet reported on Dec. 18.

Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals approved the decision to return the area, located in the Kadıköy district near the shores of the Marmara Sea, to Greek-origin Turkish citizen Stamatis Papamanolaki, many years after the area was seized by the state based on a regulation from 1964, according to Milliyet.

Papamanolaki, however, does not want to demolish the mosque built on the land, but only demands the price of the land from the Turkish Treasury, reportedly saying the mosque is also a holy place for him.

The heir of former Fener Greek Patriarch Maximus V, born Maximos Vaportzis, recently won his legal battle to take back the land owned by the former patriarchate, which had been seized by the state.

In 1949, Ernestug Vaportzis, a member of the Greek community in Istanbul, bought a mansion from Vatan Kumizian on the site. Vaportzis died in 1971 and left his mansion to his two brothers, former Fener Greek Patriarch Maximus V and Yanni Vaportzis. The patriarch died in 1972 and Yanni Vaportzis died in 1974.

The mansion was left to Yanni Vaportzis’ wife Kornilla Vaportzis, who received an inheritance document from a court in Turkey. In 1982, Kornilla Vaportzis wrote a testament in which she said she was leaving the mansion and the land it is built on to her foster child Papamanolaki.

The Turkish Treasury then filed a lawsuit and demanded the cancelation of the inheritance documents given by Kornilla Vaportzis, based on a 1964 regulation. The regulation forbade Greek-origin Turkish citizens from purchasing land in Turkey.

In 1985, the Kadıköy 3rd civil court of peace decided for the cancelation of the inheritance documents and the mansion, with the state seizing the lands. Kornilla Vaportzis died when the court case was still ongoing. Following the court’s decision, the mansion was demolished in 1986, after which the Fenerbahçe Mosque was built on the land.

Papamanolaki filed a lawsuit at the Kadıköy civil court of first instance in 2008 and demanded the return of the land. The court decided that the 1964 Cabinet enactment banning Greek-origin Turkish citizens from having any rights to their properties in Turkey as “unlawful.” The court said the 1964 enactment was a "temporary decision" and did not cancel people’s rights to their properties.

The Supreme Court of Appeals 3rd board later overruled the court’s decision. However, the local court insisted on its ruling. The case was subsequently discussed by the assembly of civil chambers in the Supreme Court of Appeals, which supported the local court’s ruling and decided in favor of returning the land to Papamanolaki.