Mr. Lothrop to Mr. Bayard.
St. Petersburg, March 31, 1888. (Received April 16.)
Sir: On about the 15th of January last a man named Hercules A. Proios, who claims to be by birth a Greek, but naturalized at Chicago in 1871 as an American citizen, was arrested at Mariopol, in southern Russia, and has been extradited to Turkey.
It seems that Proios went to Turkey in or about 1872, and was employed in the service of the Turkish Government until August, 1887, when he left or was discharged. He then, or soon after, went to Mariopol and engaged in business as a ship chandler.
In January last it seems that the Turkish ambassador at St. Petersburg applied to the Russian authorities that Proios might be arrested and sent to Turkey to be tried upon the charge of having stolen large sums of money from the Turkish Government while in its service. This charge is strenuously denied by Proios, who insisted that he did not know the ground of his arrest. He was arrested on the above demand.
On the 18th of January I received a telegram from Proios, saying that the Turkish consul at Berdiansk unjustly demanded his arrest for debt, that his American citizenship was doubted by the local authorities, and asking me to take measures for his release. I answered, in substance, that I could take no action without further information. I heard nothing further directly from Proios.
On March 21, instant, I received a telegram from Mr. Heenan, our consul at Odessa, saying that United States citizen Proios had been arrested by order of the Turkish consul at Berdiansk, as a Turkish subject, and had that day arrived at Odessa, and that he would demand his release the next day, and asking if his action was approved. I answered at once, “Yes; but go no further than the demand.” I at the same time wrote him more fully, and asking him to ascertain the facts and report to me.
The result is a full report from Mr. Heenan, disclosing the nature and the ground of the proceeding against Proios, as above set forth.
Though I had no information before on the point, I had some suspicion that a criminal charge might be behind the arrest. And, as I understand it, his claim of American citizenship would be no protection from arrest and extradition for crimes charged to have been committed by him against Turkish laws while living in Turkey; and that oar intervention in his behalf could go no further than to see that the demand and surrender proceedings were regular.
I do not know whether there is any formal extradition convention between Russia and Turkey or not. Nor is this perhaps very important. As ultimately the whole matter rests on the comity of nations, and not on absolute right, the question whether it shall be exercised or not seems to rest between the two countries directly concerned. Of course its wrongful exercise against an innocent citizen of a third country might give rise to a just claim against each wrong-doer.
I will add that it is the policy of Russia not to harbor within her jurisdiction the fugitive criminals of other countries.
On the facts above stated I have not thought it my duty to take any further action, unless otherwise instructed by you, after you have considered the case.
Very truly, etc.,