LOS ANGELES – The Turkish government is now in default after ignoring a lawsuit brought against it and two Turkish banks over reparations for land in southern Turkey seized from Armenians during the Armenian Genocide (Alex Bakalian et. al vs. Republic of Turkey, the Central Bank of Turkey, and T.C. Ziraat Bankasi et. al, Case Number 2:10-CV-09596, December 15, 2010). The default notice was entered on September 1, 2011.

The land in question is currently home to the Incirlik Air Base, which houses the United States 39th Mission Support Group and 39th Medical Group. The Air Base is located near Adana, Turkey.

After refusing to accept service of the lawsuit under governing rules of the 1906 Hague Convention, Turkey was served through U.S. embassy channels on June 20. Service was confirmed and the court was notified. Turkey had 60 days (by August 19) to answer the complaint but did not. The two bank defendants, Central Bank of Turkey and T.C. Ziraat Bank, requested and were given an extension to respond by September 19.

“The U.S. Department of State had sent a diplomatic note to Ankara warning that the country is bound by law to defend against the lawsuit,” says Vartkes Yeghiayan, with the Yeghiayan Law Firm and one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs. “Choosing to ignore the lawsuit won’t make it go away.”

The plaintiffs are arguing that their Armenian relatives owned land now occupied by the Base. Their complaint includes documents showing legal ownership. When their relatives were forced to flee the then Ottoman Empire, their property was subsequently seized and then sold without their permission.

By refusing to respond, Turkey risks having the court rule against it in absentia. Damages could be as high as $100 million.

Representing the plaintiffs are the Yeghiayan Law Firm in Glendale, Schwarcz, Rimberg, Boyd & Rader, LLP in Los Angeles and Michael Bazyler from Chapman University School of Law in Orange.

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