LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Lawyers for two Armenian men have sued Turkey and two of its major banks, claiming they and others were victims of genocide and seeking what could amount to hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in California, names the Republic of Turkey, The Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey and T.C. Ziraat Bankasi as defendants.
The suit seeks class action status on behalf of all Armenians and Turkish citizens “who were deprived of their citizenship, brutally deported, (and) had their property seized” by the Turkish government.
Los Angeles attorney Brian Kabateck, who filed the suit on behalf of L.A. resident Garbis Daoyan and Queens, New York resident Hrayr Turabian, said he believes this is the first lawsuit dealing with the Armenian genocide that names the Turkish government as a defendant.
The Armenian genocide refers to the death and displacement of many people who lived in the Ottoman Empire before and after World War I.
Turkey accepts that many Armenians were killed by Ottoman forces, but denies the number was as high as the 1.5 million some researchers believe died. The government has long denied the idea that genocide occurred.
The U.S. government has never formally called the events a genocide, but just this past March, a U.S. congressional panel voted to label it genocide in a non-binding resolution. That act caused the Turkish government to recall its ambassador.
Kabateck said he has successfully sued companies such as New York Life Insurance Co. and France’s AXA in the past, getting nearly $40 million in damages for victims’ heirs.
He said the suit was filed now for reasons that include the documentation of original land deeds establishing ownership of property in Turkey.
And he said it was filed in southern California due to the large numbers of Armenians who live in the area.
Editing by Todd Eastham