LOS ANGELES, CA – In light of the recent decision to return religious institutions belonging to minority citizens of the Ottoman Empire in Turkey, three descendants of Armenians owning property on what is now the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey filed a lawsuit in the California Superior Court on Dec. 15, 2010.
The suit, filed by Attorney Vartkes Yeghiayan, on behalf of Plaintiffs Alex Bakalian, Anais Haroutunian and Rita Mahdessian, has been brought against the government of the Republic of Turkey, the Ziraat Bank and the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey.
The Plaintiffs assert that four parcels of land belonging to their grandparents, Ottoman citizens Dikran Effendi and Kalina Hatun, were unjustly confiscated in the Incirlik district and put under the control of the Ziraat Bank after 1915. As compensation, they are demanding 496 dunams (496,000 square meters) of land or $63.9 million for lands and apartments built on the lands.
A communiqué sent by the U.S. Department of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on June 20 officially urged the Republic of Turkey to defend itself.
In the Diplomatic Note, the State Department explains, that “according to U.S. laws you are obliged to defend yourself, since you are the defendant in a case. Therefore, we ask you to hire an attorney in the U.S. The U.S. is ready to help you in this regard. If you don’t send a defense within 60 days, there is a possibility that the court might decide against you by default.”
The Turkish government ignored the suit and failed to file an answer resulting in a decision to be made by the court in absentia. As a result, the compensation may amount to $100 million. In defense of the seriousness of the issue, the Banks in the case have hired a law firm in the U.S. to represent them. They were granted an extension to Sept. 19 to prepare for court proceedings.