The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that the property rights of a Greek woman seeking the return of her father's land in Turkey have been violated.
Eftaliya İpseftel, a Turkish citizen of Greek origin living in Greece, applied to the top European court, claiming she had the ownership rights to a property on the Turkish island of Gökçeada in the Aegean Sea, although there was no existing title deed to support her claim. İpseftel said that her father bought the land in 1976 and the land was seized by Turkey's Treasury in 1995. She had launched a lawsuit for the return of the property, but the Supreme Court of Appeals, the ultimate judicial authority in Turkey, rejected the complaint over 110 square meters of land in 2004. By this verdict, İpseftel had exhausted all means of a legal settlement of the matter in Turkey. İpseftel sought compensation from Turkey apart from the return of property.
The court did not issue a final verdict on the case, but adjourned to a later date for examination, but the ruling paves the way for İpseftel to refile the complaint in the Turkish courts.
Legal experts say the ECtHR decision could pave the way for other Greeks claiming property ownership on Gökçeada.
Greek residents of the island gradually emigrated, especially in 1970s, due to the discriminatory policies of the state of Turkey, such as the massive settlement of Turkish people from the mainland and the seizing of buildings and lands. As the hostile policies have changed in recent years, Greek residents of the island have sought to return, but have faced lengthy bureaucratic procedures for property purchases. In 2012, the Interior Ministry abolished a regulation that necessitates Greek Turkish nationals to seek a special clearance from the ministry while purchasing property, which was one of the reasons stalling the process.
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