At the time of the 1964 Greek-Turkish crisis (the Cyprus issue), the Turkish Government engaged in large-scale expulsuions of the Greeks of Constantinople who were established there. The result of this was that 12,500 Greek citizens left the city, taking with them not only the members of their family but also a large number of Greeks of Constantinople with Turkish citizenship ('Romii').

The Greek citizens expelled who had left behind property in Constantinople were not able to sell it and benefit from the price realised since the Turkish Government, by a SECRET DECREE of 1964, the notorious KARARNAME, forbade them to undertake any juridical act in immovables, with the result that there was a dramatic reduction in the number of immovable properties which, by a host of stratagems, the Turkish State (HAZINE) appropriated.

In 1964, then, with the crisis in Cyprus as a pretext and by way of reprisal(!) for the "persecution" of the Turkish Cypriots, General Cemal Gursel, who had seized power by a coup in 1960, pushed through the puppet Turkish ministerial council the approval of Decree 6/380 of 2 November 1964, by which persons of Greek nationality were deprived of the right of carrying out juridical acts in connection with their immovable property (purchase - sale, etc.).

This decree was termed "secret" because it was never published in the Turkish government gazette. There is a simple reason for this: since it was contrary even to the "constitution" of the period, anyone could have challenged it within 90 days as being unconstitutional and sought - and certainly achieved - its annulment. It was, that is to say, UNLAWFUL from beginning to end.

And yet, for 25 years now the Turkish courts have been plundering the properties of the Greeks on the basis of this decree.

In 1980, the decree was "broadened", now declaring, by an additional legal act, wills not to be enforceable.

The withdrawal of the Secret Decree of 1964 was demanded by the Greek Government if it was to overcome its reservations as to Turkey's association with the EC, and this was achieved on 11 August 1988 (Davos meeting).

Thus a degree of hope dawned that justice would be done, albeit after long delay, to the savagely victimised Greeks of Constantinople who had abandoned their real estate there on being ordered to leave Turkish territory within 24 hours.

However, it would seem that the whole business took a wrong turning from the very start.

Invoking various non-existent "legal obstacles", the Turkish Government failed to satisfy the Greek demand that the rescinding of the decree should have retrospective force. It confined itself to including in a new law which was introduced only those cases which were pending or were to be heard from that point on.

After this very grave volte-face on the part of Ankara, the vast majority of the 80,000 and more recent refugees who had been forced to flee to Greece and elsewhere because of the pogroms of '55, '64 and after '74 and whose estates had either passed in their entirety into the ownership of the Turkish State by various 'lawful' illegalities or were in the possession of the Turkish State by means of illegal and abusive management through trustees for 25 years lost all hope not only of recovering their stolen properties but also of ever receiving a single drachma in compensation.***

The mosaic of this pogrom can be traced through the notorious case of the property of Pinelopi Pana, which we will examine at greater length below and which has been mentioned in Parliament by the Greek Prime Minister. Although this case had been settled in favour of the lawful heirs since 9 February 1988, certain unlawful, and therefore extremely suspect and by no means random, obstacles to the unhindered administration of the estate by the beneficiaries were interposed.***

Pana's property consists of four houses on the Prinkiponissia, of a value of some three billion Turkish liras (approximately 230 million drachmas). Pinelopi Pana, who died in 1979, named as heirs in her will her son Kosmas and her lawyer, Elpida Frangopoulou, of Turkish citizenship and Greek descent.

In 1980, immediately after the broadening of the decree to prohibit the execution of wills, the Turkish State claimed that its force was retrospective (!) and sought the annulment of Pana's will, an unprecedented step in the international legal annals, not only because there was already the res judicata, but also because the only person who could have sought its annulment was her son, Kosmas.

The Turkish State attempted by means of forged documents to show first of all that Pana had been "childless" (!) and then that Frangopoulou, born in Constantinople and for 30 years a member of the Turkish bar, was "not a Turkish citizen"(!). When these endeavours proved ineffective, the ultimate means was mobilised: a further 'broadening' of the scope of the law laid down that "not even Turkish citizens" could inherit from Greeks.

After three successive rounds in a judicial struggle between the court of first instance and the appeal court which lasted some seven years, with the former refusing to ratify the decision of the latter because there was a judge of first instance, by the name of Coskun, who had a rudimentary respect for himself, the case was referred to the 'Supreme Court of Cassation of Turkey', which was covened in extra-ordinary session over the Pana case.

In January 1988, a few days before the Davos meeting, the Supreme Court sat and declared Pana's will null and void.

When, then, the 'good will' gestures were decided upon at Davos, the Turkish Government by the law of 3 February 1988 announced the rescinding of the decree which had been promised to Mr Papandreou, but, of course, without retrospective force. But one day before, on 2 February 1988, it had taken care to have the decision of the Court of Cassation engrossed, and therefore brought into force, so that the Pana case would fall within the non-retroactivity of the law of the next day, 3 February 1988, by which the 1964 decree was withdrawn.

The Greek Government protested. Mr Ozal then issued a special decree (called "Elpida's Decree") on the favourable treatment of the Frangopoulou-Pana case. In the hearing which took place on 9 February 1988, the Ministry of Finance appeared as the representative of the State and announced the withdrawal of its action, declaring that the 1979 decision had been lawful (!) and thus Frangopoulou was vindicated, but without being granted a permit to build up to the present.

There will be a further reference to the case of Pinelopi Pana below - this time within the personal experience of a Greek woman of Constantinople who tells us in her own words of certain cases of her fellow-citizens, such as those of the heirs of Patriarch Maximos of Constantinople, Ms Tzanetou, Ms Kallinoglou and Grigorios Panas.

*** Note from articles by A. Bitsis in ANTI magazine.