Turk returns French honour after 'genocide' bill

16th October 2006, Comments 0 comments

ANKARA, Oct 16, 2006 (AFP) - Turkey's top academic, Erdogan Tezic, has returned an award from France in protest at a French bill that makes it a crime to deny that the World War I massacres of Armenians were genocide, his office said Monday.

ANKARA, Oct 16, 2006 (AFP) - Turkey's top academic, Erdogan Tezic, has returned an award from France in protest at a French bill that makes it a crime to deny that the World War I massacres of Armenians were genocide, his office said Monday.

Professor Tezic, the chairman of the Higher Education Council (YOK), was decorated with the Légion d'Honneur in September 2004, becoming the first and only Turk to hold it, the statement said.

In a letter to French President Jacques Chirac, Tezic argued that even though the French government had distanced itself from the controversial bill, Chirac himself had called for Turkey to acknowledge the killings as genocide during a visit to Armenia last month.

"Even though the bill has not come into force yet, it has become clear the issue (of the Armenian masacres) has become a state policy of France.

"Therefore, I feel I can no longer hold the Légion d'Honneur," Tezic said.

Turkey was infuriated when the French National Assembly last week adopted the bill which stipulates a prison sentence of up to one year and a fine of up to EUR 45,000 for people who deny that the killings were genocide.

The bill still needs the approval of the Senate and the president to take effect.

Armenians claim up to 1.5 million of their people were slaughtered in orchestrated killings during the last years of the Ottoman Empire, modern Turkey's predecessor.

But Turkey rejects the use of the term "genocide", saying some 300,000 Armenians died when the Ottoman Empire fell apart, but at least as many Turks did too.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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