The Assembly of Foundations, the highest decision-making body of the general directorate for foundations, decided to return the lands of the historic Mor Gabriel Monastery to the Syriac [Assyrian] community in Turkey.
Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç confirmed that 12 plots belonging to the Mor Gabriel Foundation will be returned to the community by tweeting after assembly meeting.
The assembly members have reviewed the legal compliance of overturning the 12 parcels of land and concluded that there is no problem with applying for land registration, said Adnan Ertem, the general director of the institution, during a press conference held after the assembly meeting.
The assembly's decision is only the first step taken towards the long awaited restoration, as it is still subject to the approval of the land registry. "After the assembly's decision, the two-month process for land registration will begin," he said.
One of the biggest questions throughout the process has been whether there is a need for a judicial ruling to validate the assembly decision, as the Supreme Court of Appeals had ruled against the return last year.
In November last year, the court had rejected a plea by a Syriac foundation to overturn an earlier decision that gives the land of the Mor Gabriel Monastery to the Treasury.
Ertem said this was one of the issues discussed in the session, and after checking the legal conformities the only thing they can now do is voice their affirmative decision, which is only administratively binding.
"After this [the assembly's positive decision], the court process can work," he said, highlighting that all the parties related to the issue, meaning both the monastery foundation and the Treasury, were free to take the issue to the legal arena.
Mor Gabriel is a 1,700-year-old historic monastery located in the southeastern province of Mardin's Midyat district. In 2008, the Forestry Ministry, the Land Registry Cadaster Office and the villages of Yayvantepe, Çandarlı and Eğlence sued the monastery for allegedly "occupying" their fields.
The lawsuit was finalized last year, recognizing the monastery as an "occupier," but the case was then taken to the European Court of Human Rights.
The return of the 244,000 square-meter land of the monastery will mark the largest property restoration in the history of the Turkish Republic in terms of size, Ertem also stated, adding that more valuable immovable properties had been returned before.
While declaring a the "democratization package" last week, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan promised that, "The land of the Mor Gabriel Monastery will return to the monastery's foundation."