Minister Leishman to the Secretary of State.
Constantinople , September 22, 1905 .
Sir: I beg to inclose herewith for the further information of the Department copy of the consul-general’s reporta after making a preliminary examination of Charles Vartanian and Hovhanes Afarian, two naturalized citizens of Ottoman origin, who, besides admitting being sent here by the Armenian revolutionary committee in connection with the plot which resulted in the recent attempt upon the life of the Sultan, are charged with having killed a rich Armenian named Apik Effendi, Vartanian having been caught in the act, and it is quite evident that Afarian was his accomplice.
In view of the impolitic action of the Turkish police authorities, which brought the question of naturalized citizens as well as the disputed interpretation of Article IV most prominently to the fore, it would be impossible to abandon Vartanian and Afarian to the Turks without establishing a most dangerous precedent, unless the government should find itself in a position to withdraw the demand for their surrender upon the ground that they had obtained their naturalization by fraudulent representations, or had by their own voluntary acts practically forfeited their right to claim American protection.
As the preliminary report of the consul is not as conclusive as one would wish, I have requested him to pursue the examination further, but from the evidence at hand it appears that Afarian must have obtained his certificate of naturalization before being in the United States the requisite five years.[Page 892]
Vartanian’s case is not so clear, for while he has contradicted himself a number of times, evidence of fraud as to time of his naturalization is not so apparent, although a further investigation may also develop the fact that he too may have obtained his papers before he was properly entitled to them.
Both men appear to have applied to the Turkish consul at Chicago for passports in their original capacity as Ottoman subjects, but as they were refused, owing to a general order forbidding the issuance of passports to Turkish subjects, except in exceptional cases, I am not clear as to whether their act in merely demanding passports as Ottoman subjects can be properly construed as a practical abandonment of their acquired nationality, or whether Vartanian’s acknowledgment of having donned a fez on his arrival here with a view of creating the impression that he was still an Ottoman subject and residing here as such can be construed as a voluntary reversion to his Ottoman subjection.
If the Department under all the circumstances can see its way clear to authorize me to view the actions of Afarian and Vartanian as a practical renunciation of their acquired rights, it would afford a very happy solution of this most unpleasant complication, as I could then retire gracefully without prejudice to the principles involved by merely notifying the Sublime Porte that as an examination of the prisoners showed that they had by their own voluntary acts practically renounced their right to claim American protection, that the demand for their surrender was withdrawn. * * *
In view of our demand that all proceedings be stayed, the Turkish Government, finding itself in an embarrassing position on account of not being able to put the judgment against Vartanian into execution, has set aside the judgment condemning him to death, by ordering a new trial, on the plea that the court omitted to include his accomplices. This action has caused considerable commotion among the native population, who are not capable of taking nice questions of law, etc., into consideration, and I hear rumors of considerable feeling against the Americans for interfering with justice.
In conclusion I can add that unless the Department can see its way clear to abandon Afarian and’ Vartanian to their parent government on grounds similar to that outlined above, it would be difficult to withdraw the demand for their surrender without great loss of prestige, as even failure to press the demand would be construed as a practical abandonment of all right to protect naturalized citizens of Ottoman origin, and as the Porte finds itself in a most embarrassing position and is continually pressing me for a decision, I respectfully beg the Department to kindly wire me definitive instructions upon receipt of this note.
I have, etc.,
- Not printed.↩