Today's Zaman, Turkey
July 4 2014

Turkey's Armenian Patriarchate has lost its legal battle to reclaim
the Sansaryan Han building, which was confiscated by the state about
seven decades ago.

The court rejection came in spite of a recent government plan to
return seized properties to minority groups.

The historic building, built in 1895 and commissioned by Mıgırdic
Aga Sanasaryan, was designed by architect Hovsep Aznavour. It was
seized by the Turkish state in the early years of the republic. The
Armenian Patriarchate has been fighting a legal battle for its return
since 2011.

The Ä°stanbul 13th Court of First Instance rejected the patriarchate's
request for the return of Sansaryan Han in the last session on
Friday, attended by lawyers representing both the Patriarchate and
the Treasury.

A contractor leased the building on June 18 from Turkey's Directorate
General for Foundations (VGM). The lease agreement was executed
before the conclusion of the lawsuit and prompted speculation that
the building will be turned into a hotel.

Ali Eyuboglu, an attorney for the Armenian Patriarchate, said
the court's reasons for not returning the building are not clear
as all the documents and expert reports indicate that the building
rightfully belongs to the patriarchate. Eyuboglu said they will appeal
the decision once the court issues its reasoned opinion regarding
the verdict.

In a related development, Republican People's Party (CHP) Deputy
Chairman Sezgin Tanrıkulu submitted a parliamentary motion addressed
to Minister of Culture and Tourism Omer Celik inquiring whether the
speculation that the Sansaryan Han will be turned into a hotel is true.

Minority foundations, seeking the return of properties that were
seized by the Turkish state in the first decade of the Turkish
Republic, have long been saying that they have experienced a number of
challenges. Despite a 2011 law passed to ensure confiscated property
be returned to its rightful owners, the foundations indicate that
reclaiming the properties is not going to be easy.

In August 2011, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government
adopted legislation to return all confiscated immovable property
belonging to minority foundations in Turkey, a long-overdue step
towards expanding the rights of minorities in the country. The decree
allows foundations to reclaim real property declared in 1936, when all
the foundations were asked by the government to present lists of their
property assets. Applications for at least 88 items have been rejected.