Washington, DC –On January 25, 2007, AHI Executive Director, Nick Larigakis, was invited to meet with the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) regarding his eye-witness account of the mistreatment of American citizens, as well as Greek Orthodox Christians of Turkey, by that country's officials during the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Istanbul, Turkey to meet with His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  The invitation from the Commission stemmed from Mr. Larigakis' letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice of December 18, 2006, whereby he addresses this issue. (AHI Press Release No. 89, 12/18/2006)


        The USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. government agency that was created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 to monitor the status of freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief, as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and related international instruments, and to give independent policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and the Congress. 

        Commissioner's who participated were Felice Gaer, USCIRF Chair, and Dr. Elizabeth H. Prodromou, USCIRF Vice Chair.  Commission staff members also participated; they included, Joseph Crapa, Executive Director, Tad Stahnke, Deputy Director for Policy, and Patricia Carley, Associate Director for Policy.

        Also joining Mr. Larigakis, via conference phone, to provide supporting testimony was journalist, Harry Moskos, of Albuquerque, NM, who was reporting from Istanbul during the time of the Pope's visit.

        "The session lasted for ninety minutes and the questions asked were direct and significant.  I very much welcomed the opportunity to present my observations before this esteemed group regarding the mistreatment that we received as Americans and to also further highlight the plight of the Ecumenical Patriarch and the problems he faces in Turkey today," said Larigakis.  "I want to also especially thank Commissioner Prodromou for facilitating this discussion with the Commission," continued Larigakis.

        In his concluding comments to the Commission, Mr. Larigakis explained that he urged the Commission "to recommend that Turkey be designated as a ‘Country of Particular Concern' under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998."