23 June 2006

802) Kerincsiz group leads protest against Karekin

A group led by Kemal Kerinçsiz, president of the Turkish Lawyers' Union -- which describes itself as a “nationalist” organization -- yesterday protested the head of the Armenian Orthodox Church, Karekin II, during his visit to the currently closed Heybeliada (Halki) Greek Orthodox Seminary.

Karekin II is in Turkey since Tuesday for a week-long visit to the Armenian community here and to have talks with Fener Greek Patriarch Bartolomeos.

Karekin arrived on the island via a private yacht, accompanied by Bartolomeos. His visit to the seminary and to the monastery of Ayia Trias (Holy Trinity) was closed to the press.

Meanwhile, the group led by Kerinçsiz took a ferryboat to the island, but police wouldn't let them march to the seminary, later allowing only Kerinçsiz to go.

Kerinçsiz then took a phaeton towards the seminary but was again stopped by the police.

“Here a show is being put on. The name of the play is ‘Chateau of the Darkness, Heybeliada'; the players are Bartolomeos and Karekin. The writer of the play is George Soros; the venue is Turkey; the director is the United States. We're here to prevent this play from finishing,” he was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency as he spoke to the protest group after being sent back by the police.

Turkey sees Patriarch Bartolomeos as the leader of the Greek Orthodox community, although the world Orthodox community considers him to be their spiritual leader.

Turkey's position puts it at odds with the European Union, which it aspires to join, and the United States, which consider the status of the patriarch as a matter of religious freedom. In its regular progress report assessing Turkey's membership efforts, the EU Commission urged Turkey to improve religious rights for non-Muslim communities and complained, among other things, that “public use of the ecclesiastical title of ecumenical patriarch is still banned.”

A U.S. State Department report on international religious freedom in 2005 highlighted concerns related to the status of the patriarch and reopening of an Orthodox seminary in Heybeliada Island near Istanbul, which has been closed for decades.

The Halki Seminary was closed in 1971 under a law requiring state supervision of university-level religious education.

“Religious education being given by a seminary is against the Turkish Republic's Constitution and the principle of secularity,” Kerinçsiz said.

Public opinion in Turkey has become well acquainted with this “nationalist” lawyer as he has been a co-plaintiff in almost all cases opened against journalists, academics and authors under Article 301 and Article 216 of the new Turkish Penal Code (TCK), which went into effect in June. Article 301 covers the offense of “insulting Turkishness,” while Article 216 covers the offense of “inciting people to hatred.”

June 23, 2006
ANKARA - Turkish Daily News



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