By PAUL CHAVEZ
LOS ANGELES – Four Armenian charities each received $333,000 Monday as part of a $20 million settlement between an insurance firm and relatives of Armenians killed 90 years ago in the Ottoman Empire.
As part of the settlement, New York Life Insurance Co. also has agreed to earmark $11 million for the heirs of policy holders. The policy holders died in what Armenians call the first genocide of the 20th century.
Armenians contend that 1.5 million people were executed between 1915 and 1919 by Turkish authorities who believed they helped the invading Russian army during World War I.
The genocide claim has been rejected by Turkey, which says the Armenians were killed in civil unrest during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. France and Russia have declared the killings a genocide, but the United States has not made that declaration.
”The genocide is an important issue in the Armenian community. Everyone has some relative who perished in the genocide,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Brian Kabateck, who said his maternal grandparents were genocide survivors.
Kabateck also praised New York Life for acknowledging the genocide and fulfilling its obligation to policy holders.
The settlement was approved last year by U.S. District Court Judge Christina A. Snyder and is believed to be the first connected to the Armenian deaths.
New York Life has admitted that about 2,400 policies were issued to Armenians in Turkey before 1915 that were never paid. People who believe they are descendants of policy holders have a March 16 deadline to file claims.
The settlement calls for the original policies to be multiplied by 15.5 for inflation and interest.
The four organizations who received payments Monday were the Burbank-based Armenian Church of North America Western Diocese; the Los Angeles-based Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church; Armenian Educational Foundation, of Glendale, and the Armenian Relief Society, nationally headquartered in Watertown, Mass.
The organizations were singled out because they helped Armenians settle in the United States after the genocide, Kabateck said.
Five Armenian organizations on the East Coast last month also received equal amounts.
Martin Marootian, the 89-year-old lead plaintiff in the case, said he was pleased that Armenian charities received payments.
”It means all Armenians will benefit from the settlement of this case,” he said.