Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Turkey Interferes in Lawsuit Against German Banks on Genocide Assets

Defying all acceptable legal norms, Turkey's ambassador to the U.S.,
Nabi Sensoy, recently sent a highly inappropriate letter to U.S.
District Judge Margaret M. Morrow (Federal Court), asking her to
dismiss a lawsuit by Armenian plaintiffs against the German Deutsche
Bank and Dresdner Bank. A copy of this previously undisclosed letter
was obtained by this writer.In a class action lawsuit, filed by
Yeghiayan & Associates; Kabateck, Brown, Kellner, and Geragos &
Geragos, Armenian plaintiffs had accused the two German banks of
concealing and preventing the recovery of assets which were deposited
by Armenians in these banks "prior to World War I and the Armenian
Genocide." The plaintiffs had further alleged that the banks
"accepted looted assets,forcibly taken by the government of the
Ottoman Turkey during World War I andthe Armenian Genocide."
Ever since the filing of this lawsuit in 2004 (amended in 2006),
these German banks have done everything possible to have it
dismissed. They have challenged the constitutionality of the law
passed by the California Legislature which extended the Statute
of Limitations and created standing for plaintiffs to sue the
German banks and other institutions until 2016. In their attempt
to counter the charge that they are the beneficiaries of ill-gotten
gains, theGerman banks, through their legal counsel, Milbank,
Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, have claimed that the California law
"is an unconstitutional encroachment on the federal government's
exclusive power over foreign affairs."

It now appears that in order to back up their claim, the German
banks have succeeded in getting Turkey to instruct its ambassador
to the U.S. to send a letter to the Judge Morrow telling her that
the District Court is interfering in a matter involving U.S.
-Turkish relations. This modern-day German-Turkish collaboration
reminds one of the alliance forged some 90 years ago between the
German and Turkish governments during the Armenian Genocide. By
reviving this unholy union, the German banks hope to keep their
"loot," while the Turkish government can continue to cover up
the genocide and attemptto preempt anyfuture claims against
Turkey itself.

However, the German banks and the Turkish government apparently
were oblivious to the fact that by writing a letter directly to
the Federal Judge, the Turkish ambassador was interfering in a
judicial process to which the Turkish side is not a legal party.

It is noteworthy that the Turkish Ambassador's letter, dated
February 23-2007, came on the heels of Foreign Minister Abdullah
Gul's latest visit to Washington, leading one to speculate that
the Ambassador may have been pressured into this improper act by
his political superiors, possibly against the advice of his
American attorneys. It is noteworthy that, during the court
hearing on February 27, 2007, the German banks' attorney
disclosed that David Saltzman, the attorney for the Turkish
Embassy, had been in close communication with him for several
years since the lawsuit was first filed.

In his letter to Judge Morrow, Amb. Sensoy wrote: "I am deeply
concerned that the plaintiffs have asked you to sit in judgment
on Turkey's sovereign acts carried out within its territory,
from which I would request that you refrain. Specifically, the
plaintiffs have made allegations that require this court to
delve into whether there was a governmental plan to commit
crimes against Armenians living in the late Ottoman Empire,
including the looting of property. The plaintiffs have made
clear that they wish their allegations to span the demise of
the Ottoman Empire and carry over into modern Turkey. For
example, the plaintiffs allege that the Armenian tragedy
extended from 1915 to 1923, insinuating that any wrongful
acts that contributed to it are not only the responsibility
of the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor state, but also its
successor, Republic of Turkey, which was founded in 1923."

The Turkish ambassador then unabashedly offered the Judge his
embassy's services as an unimpeachable source for documentation
on the Armenian Genocide! "My embassy places itself at your
disposal to provide references to scholarly works that disagree
with the current orthodoxy that the Armenian tragedy ought to be
termed genocide," the letter said.

Amb. Sensoy then chastised Judge Morrow by instructing her that
her "use of the term 'Armenian Genocide,' is inappropriate."
He said he was unhappy that in her September 11 opinion, the
Judge had made a reference to the "Historical Background of the
Armenian Genocide." He also accused the Judge of "being an
advocate of one side in a genuine historic controversy=80¦."

In response to this unwarranted intrusion into the affairs of
the court, the attorneys for the Armenian side -- the plaintiffs
-- filed an affidavit with the court on March 7, 2007, that
stated: "The letter from the Turkish Ambassador is replete with
inaccuracies and erroneous suppositions=80¦. The Republic of
Turkey is not a party to this lawsuit, nor has it appeared in any
capacity in such a way to allow it any voice in this process=80¦.
There is no legal justification for this Court to consider any
position presented by the Republic of Turkey in this case.
Accordingly, Plaintiffs recommend that the Court disregard the
Turkish Ambassador's letter."

On the other hand, the attorneys for the German banks -- the
defendants - claimed in their affidavit that the Turkish
ambassador's letter was "relevant evidence." Not surprisingly,
the defendants used that letter to buttress their allegation
that the lawsuit could have to "negative implications" on U.S.
relations with Turkey. They claimed that the Turkish ambassador's
letter demonstrates that the court's consideration of "the degree
of Turkey's culpability for its treatment of Armenians during the
WWI period implicate[s] sensitive foreign policy concerns between
the United States and Turkey even to this date."

While the Turkish government's intent in sending such a letter
to the Judge may have been to defend its interests, it may
actually result in the following unintended and detrimental
consequences for Turkey:

1) The Ambassador's unwarranted interference in the affairs of
a U.S. Federal Court could result in the Judge not only rejecting
his unsolicited intervention but also negatively disposing her
towards the German banks fortheirpossible role in orchestrating
that letter;

2) Should the judge reject the letter, her ruling would imply
that a straightforward case of seeking the return of Armenian
assets held by German banks, would become, as the Turkish
ambassador himself stated, a legal case with far reaching
consequences for the Turkish side, including the reaffirmation
of the Armenian Genocide by a U.S. Federal Court and holding
today's Republic of Turkey responsible for the losses suffered
by genocide victims.

Once again, by its emotional over-reaction to all issues dealing
with the Armenian Genocide, the Turkish government may have shot
itself in the foot!

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