Minister Leishman to the Secretary of State.
Constantinople, September 4, 1905.
Sir: I have to report another case of arrest by the Turkish police of a naturalized citizen of Ottoman origin, more aggravated than the one reported in my dispatch (No. 1139), of August 28, 1905,a as the police first tried to hide the fact that the man claimed American nationality and when confronted with evidence showing that the man was the bearer of an American passport flatly refused to allow the consul to examine the man.
From information that has reached the consulate it appears that the man’s name is Charles Vartanian and that he is the bearer of a passport issued by the Department of State in May or April last (No. 101639,) and at the time of his arrest was heard by bystanders to have declared himself to be an American citizen.
As the police officials declined to allow the consul to examine the man, it is impossible for me at this time to express an intelligent opinion as to whether the man is the bona fide holder of an American passport or whether it has been obtained by fraudulent means or borrowed for the occasion; but there is reason to believe that he was associated with Afarian, the man reported in my dispatch No. 1139, and that both these men are members of the Armenian revolutionary committee.
The charge upon which Vartanian was arrested can not be disputed, as he was caught red-handed in the act of killing a rich Armenian named Apik Effendi Ounjian, who it appears had refused to submit to the demands made upon him for a large subscription to the Armenian revolutionary cause.[Page 886]
In view of the doubtful character of the above-mentioned individuals and the crimes of which they are charged I was not disposed to push the matter, merely contenting myself with having the consul file a formal protest and demand for their surrender until such time as I could make a thorough investigation and secure the advice and instructions of the Department, as it is quite possible that Afarian and Vartanian may have obtained their passports in an irregular manner, as was found in the case of Aprahamian and others at Smyrna two years ago under very similar conditions, which would have enabled the government to avoid having to raise the question of Article IV over such unworthy subjects. But in view of the action of the Turkish police in refusing the consul permission to examine a prisoner who claimed American nationality I could not delay action without running the risk of establishing a bad precedent, and consequently I immediately made a demand upon the Sublime Porte for the prompt surrender of both prisoners.
As the excitement over the present revolutionary movement is still very great and the feeling very bitter over the attempt upon the life of the Sultan, it is quite certain that the Turkish Government will make every effort to retain possession of Afarian and Vartanian, and that the dispute over “Article IV” will be strained to the utmost, as even the Belgians whose treaty more clearly resembles ours than those of the other powers, have, in the present instance, permitted the Turkish Government to retain possession of one of their citizens whose nationality is not in question.
While the men involved are not worthy of very much consideration, both on account of their questionable character as citizens and of the crimes with which they are charged, the principles involved are of too serious a character to admit of any temporizing measures, and as it is quite possible that our demands will not be complied with without a show of force I respectfully beg the Department to kindly instruct me in the matter.
I have, etc.,
- Not printed.↩