File No. 367.114M69/124.
Pera, May 13, 1912.
My telegram of May 12. In your cable of May 8 you directed that, should the charge be connected with the sinking, the surrender of the captain should be requested. These instructions were complied with, at the same time requesting chart and data necessary to establish the facts.1
While our right to protect the steamship company as an American corporation in all its civil and commercial affairs and litigation is clear, it is very doubtful that penal jurisdiction of American consuls can be extended to persons other than American citizens. The present case is not an action against the company for damages caused to passengers or others by the sinking of the vessel, but the beginning of prosecution against the person of a Greek subject charged with having caused the sinking of a merchant vessel in Ottoman territorial waters through disobeying regulations concerning navigation during war and resulting in the death of many persons of whom several were Turkish subjects. If it could be established or should it appear reasonably likely that the facts of the case are as stated by the Turkish authorities and that the charge is not trumped up, I cannot perceive how we can object to Ottoman jurisdiction.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs assured me today that the data I had asked for would be furnished. In case I am convinced that the data thus received justifies me, I will waive request for surrender of the captain, unless otherwise instructed. The Department can be sure that the Turkish Government will categorically deny our jurisdiction in the matter, and it has the advantage over us of its custody of the captain. Where our right is not clear it is better not to make the claim than to make it and then withdraw.
- See inclosure 3 with his despatch 234 of June 28.↩