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Land under U.S. Airbase Stolen by Turkey during Armenian Genocide, Lawsuit Says

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  • Land under U.S. Airbase Stolen by Turkey during Armenian Genocide, Lawsuit Says

    Armenian Americans Seek Reparations from Turkish Government and Two Leading Turkish Banks in First Lawsuit Based on Specific Land Parcels Seized during Genocide

    Attorney Vartkes Yaghiayan filed major law suit against Turkey. Here seen (c) being interviewed by famed director of AGHET, Eric Friedler.

    LOS ANGELES – December15, 2010 – Descendants of Armenian genocide victims today filed a lawsuit in U.S. Federal Court against the Turkish government and two leading Turkish banks seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in potential damages, citing the illegal seizure of their homes, business and farmland, a portion of which now houses a key U.S. airbase used to support military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The lawsuit accuses the Republic of Turkey, the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey and T.C. Ziraat Bankasi, one of Turkey’s largest and oldest banks, of stealing and then profiting from land that was illegally seized during the Armenian Genocide of 1915-23, when the Ottoman Turks drove them from the Adana region, a center of Armenian culture and religion. The three Armenian Americans who are plaintiffs in the lawsuit are seeking hundreds of millions of dollars as compensation for their families’ seized property and repayment of rent and other illegal proceeds collected over the past century. This is the first lawsuit filed in a U.S. court against the Turkish government in which the plaintiffs are seeking reimbursement for specific parcels of property illegally seized during the Armenian Genocide, said their attorney Vartkes Yeghiayan, whose wife, Rita Mahdessian, is one of three Armenian American plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Mahdessian’s ancestor was a wealthy Armenian landowner who was forced to flee Turkey with his family in 1915, leaving behind his home, some farmland, a dry goods store and an insurance business. Their lawsuit seeks “fair market rents and other relief for Plaintiffs, the rightful owners and their heirs, of approximately 122.5 acres of property located in the Adana region of Turkey,” according to the filing.



    The Incirlik Air Base, which is located at the crossroads of Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia, is considered strategically vital to U.S. interests in the region. During the Cold War, the base was used for U.S. spy plane missions over the Soviet Union. Today, the base is a vital transportation hub supporting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and humanitarian missions throughout the region. Fast food giants Baskin-Robbins, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut are among the U.S. companies operating on the base, according to the lawsuit. The Turkish government has repeatedly threatened to deny Americans access to the base if the U.S. Congress recognizes the Armenian genocide, despite the fact that the base is built on land illegally confiscated from Armenians. “I was upset when I learned that the Turkish government was renting my family’s property to the U.S. government for an airbase,” said Anais Haroutunian, another plaintiff in the case. “I cannot believe that the brave Americans who have served at Incirlik, some of whom are of Armenian descent themselves, would condone such abhorrent behavior by a government claiming to be our ally.” Today’s filing comes less than a week after the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that descendants of Armenian genocide victims could pursue legal action against insurance firms that failed to honor the policies of Armenian genocide victims, re-opening the door for legal claims in California stemming from the Turkish atrocities. California, home of the nation’s largest Armenian community, is one of 42 states that have passed laws recognizing the massacre of more than 1 million Armenians nearly a century ago by the Ottoman Turks. “Until Turkey acknowledges and makes amends for this genocide, the injustice continues unabated,” said Yeghiayan, a Glendale attorney who has championed the Armenian genocide litigation movement. “There can be no healing until Turkey does what is right.” Joining Yeghiayan in this litigation are Los Angeles attorneys Kathryn Lee Boyd and David Schwarcz of Todd, Ferentz, Schwarcz & Rimberg. Professor Michael Bazyler of Chapman University, one of the nation’s leading experts on genocide law and restitution, has been brought in as an international legal expert. Yeghiayan has filed more than half a dozen lawsuits related to the Armenian genocide issue and has negotiated successful multi-million dollar settlements against two major life insurance companies. In June, Yeghiayan and Boyd filed litigation against the J. Paul Getty Museum in what is believed to be the first case in the U.S. seeking the return of cultural or religious objects stolen during the Armenian genocide.



    Haroutunian, Mahdessian and Alex Bakalian, the third plaintiff in today’s filing, have deeds proving ownership to the property stolen from their grandparents, some of which lies directly beneath the runways, warehouses and commercial buildings that have served the U.S. military since the 1950s, according to their lawsuit. The town of Incirlik, where the base was built, was also home for a large Armenian church. The lawsuit estimates the current value of the stolen Armenian land in and around Incirlik Air Base at approximately $63.9 million based on U.S. Department of Defense data.
    http://centerarnews.com/land-under-u...it-p3978-1.htm

  • #2
    Re: Land under U.S. Airbase Stolen by Turkey during Armenian Genocide, Lawsuit Says

    Armenian-Americans sue Turkey over land

    Three descendants of Armenians who lost their property in the collapse of the Ottoman Empire filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the Turkish government and two Turkish banks for restitution of more than $63 million for land that includes the strategic İncirlik Air Base used by the U.S. military.

    The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles says ancestors of the litigants had their property confiscated in the alleged Armenian genocide. The families say they have deeds to the parcels.

    Turkey firmly rejects claims that Armenian deaths between 1915 and 1919 constituted genocide, arguing instead that the deaths resulted from civil unrest that accompanied the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

    In the past, Turkey threatened to withhold access to the base when Congress considered recognizing the so-called genocide.

    The lawsuit was filed by attorney Vartkes Yeghiayan, whose wife is one of the plaintiffs and claims to have documents showing that her ancestor, a wealthy Armenian landowner, was forced to flee Turkey with his family in 1915, leaving behind his home, farmland, store and insurance business.

    The lawsuit was filed well after business hours in Ankara, the capital of Turkey, and efforts for immediate comment were not successful.

    Yeghiayan has filed more than a dozen lawsuits related to this issue and won multimillion-dollar settlements against two major life insurance companies.

    The current suit is different because it names the Turkish government and two of Turkey's largest and oldest banks rather than privately held corporations. Banks named in the suit are the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey and T.C. Ziraat Bankası.

    The lawsuit involves about 122.5 acres of property located in Turkey's Adana province with an estimated value of $63.9 million.

    Attorney Michael Bazyler, a legal expert on genocide litigation and a professor at Chapman University, said the way was cleared for the lawsuit last week when the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed itself and said the heirs of Armenians killed in the Turkish Ottoman Empire can seek payment from companies that sold life insurance to their relatives.

    The 44-page lawsuit sets out facts of how the properties were seized and how the ancestors of the litigants were "scattered throughout the world as refugees."

    "During and after World War I, the families of each of the plaintiffs were forced to flee the Ottoman Turkish Empire – modern-day Turkey – leaving behind murdered family members and all of their movable and immovable property," the lawsuit says.

    Explaining the nearly century-long delay in filing suit, it says, "It was impossible for plaintiffs' predecessors to seek compensation for their stolen property or focus on anything but rebuilding their lives."

    The lawsuit said Turkey profited from the land, renting the air base to the U.S. for use as a vital hub supporting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and humanitarian missions throughout Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia.

    Meanwhile, Armenians in Los Angeles will campaign against Kobe Bryant’s sponsorship deal with Turkish Airlines and are urging him to drop it, the western U.S. chapter of the Armenian Youth Federation said.

    Turkish Airlines, or THY, announced that it signed Bryant, a guard for basketball’s Los Angeles Lakers, to be a “global brand ambassador” on Tuesday as it seeks to publicize the start of direct flights from Istanbul to Los Angeles.

    Armenian activists demand that the United States recognize the early 20th century killings of Armenians in Turkey as genocide.

    California has 600,000 to 700,000 Armenian-Americans, “with the majority being in Southern California,” Aram Hamparian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America, said in a telephone interview.

    “That includes a lot of Lakers fans, and until now, a lot of Kobe fans as well,” he said.

    Los Angeles-born Armenian-American socialite and reality television star Kim Kardashian urged her more than 5.5 million followers on Twitter earlier this week to call on U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi to schedule a vote on House Resolution 252, which would recognize the Armenian deaths as genocide.

    Bryant’s teammate Lamar Odom is married to Kardashian’s sister Khloe. The couple visited Istanbul earlier this year while Odom played for the gold medal-winning U.S. team at the 2010 FIBA world championships hosted by Turkey. Bryant was not part of the U.S. team. The Turkish squad finished second.

    “Armenian-Americans hope that Kobe would balance what clearly looks to be a profitable business deal with a strong moral statement against Turkey’s violations of human rights, including, of course, its ongoing denial of the Armenian Genocide,” the Armenian Youth Federation said in a statement on its website.

    Bryant should drop the endorsement or back the resolution, Hamparian said. “This is not simply a private firm,” he said. “This is a firm that’s majority owned by the Turkish government.”
    http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.p...ans-2010-12-16

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