File No. 6107/1–4.
Ambassador Leishman to the Secretary of State.
Constantinople, June 17, 1907.
Sir: In reply to your instruction No. 196 of April 29 lastb (file No. 6107), I have the honor to inform you of the settlement in favor [Page 1064] of Leon H. Manoug (or Manoukian) of the question long at issue concerning the disposal of his father’s estate.
The department will remember this case, which has been dragging for several years. John Manoukian, an American citizen, naturalized prior to 1869, whose citizenship was recognized by the Turkish Government, had died intestate, and our consular court at Constantinople decreed that his legal heir was his son, Leon Manoukian. The father had, however, been living for some time past with his servant, a woman named Aghavni Papazian, who after his death obtained a fraudulent marriage certificate from the Armenian Catholic patriarchate, and on the strength of this secured a decision from the Ottoman “sheri,” or religious court, giving her a claim to the estate, which she thus succeeded in attaching. Further complications ensued from her transferring her alleged portion to a third party, who in turn mortgaged it. The legation, after making urgent representations with the Sublime Porte in this matter, succeeded in obtaining recognition of the competence of our consular court alone to decide who are the legal heirs of an American citizen, but the Porte was unable to constrain the department of imperial archives to issue the title deeds of the estate, which had been withheld from the legal heir. The matter thus remained in statu quo, owing to the conflict in authority between the Sublime Porte and the “sheri” court, or, in other words, between the civil and the religious authorities.
In the meantime the woman, Aghavni Papazian, had taken possession of an apartment house in Constantinople belonging to Leon Manoukian, and refused to vacate the same on the ground of her being joint heir and coproprietor with the son of the deceased. The embassy again called the Porte’s attention to this and repeated its previous request that the necessary title deeds be at once issued to the real heir (inclosure No. 1). It further included this question as the fifth demand in its note No. 870, of April 8. No answer was made to this in the Porte’s note of May 3 last, which settled the other four pending questions. Repeated inquiries at the Porte elicited the information that it had been sent to the grand vizier, who, being in partial disfavor and desiring to evade all responsibility, passed it over to the council of state. Thence it was sent to the Sheikh ul Islam, who is at the head of the religious courts. As the question concerned a recognition on the latter’s part of the incompetency of his own court, I caused efforts to be made to remove him from the decision of this matter. It then reverted to the grand vizier, who, although willing to regulate it, experienced fresh obstacles at the hands of the director of the imperial archives, who, taking the part of the sheri court, averred that the affair was one concerning real estate. Fresh representations, however, succeeded in overcoming this obstruction, and I am pleased to be able to transmit to the department a translation of the note which I have received from the minister for foreign affairs, and to further inform it that the title deeds have been issued to Manoukian.
This is especially agreeable to me, not only because an injustice has thus been corrected, but for the important principle involved in the recognition of the jurisdiction of our consular courts as alone competent to decide who are the legal heirs of an American citizen.
I have, etc.,
- Not printed.↩