Ottoman sultan's heirs seek to reclaim land

ALI OKTAY
ISTANBUL
Published

In a court battle, some 100 people claiming inheritance to the 34th Ottoman sultan, Abdülhamid II, are seeking the reinstatement of the late monarch's properties in Istanbul to them.

A court in Istanbul ordered the appointment of an expert to calculate the shares of each plaintiff in the case seeking a claim among the 7,756 title deeds. The judges also ordered the prosecutors to investigate the possible forgery of some inheritance claims. The plaintiffs will be entitled to the deeds based on the proximity of their relation to the deposed sultan. Still, the return of the properties requires the government's approval even if the court orders it.

The legal process was started seven years ago by 32 people claiming to be the descendants of the sultan. According to official records, Abdülhamid II held title deeds to 7,756 properties in modern day Turkey and abroad. His land in Turkey encompassed more than 1.2 million square meters. After the lawsuit was filed, the number of those claiming inheritance swelled to 250, but 150 later withdrew from the lawsuit after failing to prove their claim to the inheritance.

Among the properties in Istanbul owned by the sultan is a small island, land where a popular theater now sits, land of a former military base, land where a horse racetrack was built following his death, a seaside mansion, a factory and a number of plots in modern day Istanbul's upscale districts from Ortaköy to Beykoz.

Abdülhamid II was one of the last of the strong sultans of the Ottoman Empire, which was declining before he ascended the throne. He ruled for 33 years, from 1876 to 1909, before he was dethroned.

The House of Osman's descendants were forced to scatter around the world after the collapse of the empire and were sent into exile starting in 1924.

In 1952, female members of the dynasty were granted amnesty and the men were allowed to return to Turkey in 1974. Yet, few returned to Turkey, as most of them had already built new lives after living abroad for decades.

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