Court rejects petition to re-examine Mor Gabriel decision
The Supreme Court of Appeals has thrown out a petition by the Mor Gabriel Monastery to re-examine a decision handed down by its 20th Chamber, which ruled that the monastery is occupying state land even though it has been paying taxes on that land for decades, reported the Radikal daily on Friday.

The 20th Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals issued the verdict concerning the Syriac Orthodox monastery, located on Mardin's Tur Abdin plateau near Midyat, in June. The court noted that monastery officials had not proven that the land belongs to the monastery, adding that witnesses who were referred by the high court as experts cannot be trusted because they are not old enough to know about the history of the monastery. The verdict of the chamber was called scandalous by the Turkish press as the court is claimed to have lost several deeds and financial/tax documents, demonstrating the ownership of the land by the monastery.

The conflict surrounding Mor Gabriel began when government officials redrew the boundaries around the monastery and surrounding villages in 2008 in order to update the national land registry as part of a cadastre modernization project in compliance with European Union standards. Government officials finished this work across nearly half the country in less than five years. In addition, several new laws have been passed that require the transfer of uncultivated land to the Treasury, and in some cases that re-zone other land, such as forestland, transferring it to the jurisdiction of the Forestry Directorate.

In the wake of these new classifications, it has become difficult for owners to use this land. The issue has also become a Muslim-Christian dispute, with the neighboring villages complaining to the court that the monastery's monks have engaged in "anti-Turkish activities," including converting children to Christianity.

Mor Gabriel Monastery officials have two options ahead of them: either make individual applications to the Constitutional Court, or file a lawsuit with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

(Cihan/Today's Zaman) CİHAN
Last Modified: 2012-11-16 20:00:01
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