Friday, July 01, 2016

Alien Tort Suit Against Turkish Cleric Dismissed

In Ates v. Gulen, (MD PA, June 29, 2016), a Pennsylvania federal district court dismissed an Alien Tort Statute lawsuit (as well as related state law claims) that had been brought by three residents of Turkey against Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric from Turkey presently living in Pennsylvania. Plaintiffs are followers of a Muslim sect known as the Dogan Movement which is critical of Gulen's Anatolian version of Islam.  Plaintiffs claim that Gulen, using influence he wielded over police, prosecutors and judges in Turkey, engaged in a campaign of persecution against plaintiffs, ultimately having them arrested and detained in Turkey for up to 20 months. The court elaborated;
Plaintiffs' action revolves around their key allegation that, in April of 2009, Golen "in effect issued instructions to his followers illegally to misuse the Turkish law enforcement system against the members of the Dogan Movement...."
The court concluded that it lacks jurisdiction under the Alien Tort Statute because there had been insufficient evidence of conduct that "touches and concerns" the territory of the United States to overcome the presumption that the Alien Tort Statute does not have extraterritorial application. The court found that the action is also barred by the act of state doctrine. Wall Street Journal reports on the decision.