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2008-03-05
Ankara, Turkey
Turkish vote on property laws is a test of freedom
Last week’s vote by the Turkish parliament to permit Christian and Jewish foundations to reclaim property seized by the state will not impact the Anglican Churches in Turkey, the vicar of Istanbul tells The Church of England Newspaper.

Turkey’s Anglican churches “remain on land understood to be given to the use of HM Government so long as they are used for their original ecclesiastical purposes,” Canon Ian Sherwood reports. “As such, they seem to remain free of the complexities under Turkish law.”

It was important to “hold on to church buildings in Turkey for future generations,” he noted, as Turkish law makes building a church “nigh on impossible.”

On Feb 20 the Turkish parliament passed a law permitting Christian and Jewish organizations to redeem portions of the £75 billion in church property expropriated by the Turkish government following the 1974 rule of the Turkish Supreme Court of Appeals (the Yargitay) that held religious foundations could not acquire property by purchase or donation, if it were not already registered with the government in 1936.

Last year the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) held the Turkish court ruling violated the European Convention on Human Rights and ordered Turkey to return the seized properties or pay compensation.

Turkey’s bid to join the EU would likely be blocked if it did not “ensure the return or indemnification of the seized assets of non-Muslim foundations,” the Istanbul think-tank the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation reported.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn (pictured) applauded the move saying “the adoption of the new law on foundations is a welcome step forward.”

“This is an important issue for Turkey, and one that all EU institutions have regularly highlighted as important to ensure fundamental rights and freedoms for all Turkish citizens,” he said.

However, Rehn said, “It is implementation that will be the test of Turkey’s progress in ensuring rights and freedoms.”

Source: The Church of England Newspaper
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