Turks lobby against France's Armenian bill

5th May 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 5, 2006 (AFP) - Several Turkish organisations published an open letter in French newspapers Friday calling on the National Assembly not to back a bill that would make it a punishable offence to deny "the existence of the 1915 Armenian genocide."

PARIS, May 5, 2006 (AFP) - Several Turkish organisations published an open letter in French newspapers Friday calling on the National Assembly not to back a bill that would make it a punishable offence to deny "the existence of the 1915 Armenian genocide."

Proposed by members of the opposition Socialist Party (PS), the bill has a first reading before the parliament on May 18.

If approved, it would authorise a maximum five years in prison and a fine of EUR 45,000 euros for any person who denied that the massacres of Armenians in World War I were a genocide.

The same punishment is on the statute books for people who deny that the Jewish holocaust took place.

"If it were to be adopted, such a law would forbid any ulterior debate among historians wanting to shed light on the responsibilities of the parties to these tragic events," the Turkish organisations — including unions and business groups — said in their letter.

The bill follows on from a 2001 French law which officially recognised the massacres as genocide.

According to the new bill's sponsor PS deputy Didier Migaud, the original law was insufficient because it did not include any way of punishing negationists.

The 2001 law, which infuriated Turkey, was passed when the PS had a majority in the National Assembly. The new bill could only pass with support from the government, which seems highly unlikely.

There has been much critical discussion recently in France about so-called "historical" laws which seek to authorise an official version of past events.

In January President Jacques Chirac asked for a controversial law recognising the "positive role" of colonialism to be struck off the statute books.

Armenians claim up to 1.5 million of their kin were slaughtered in orchestrated killings between 1915 and 1917 by Turks, as the Ottoman Empire, modern Turkey's predecessor, was falling apart.

Turkey categorically rejects the claims, saying 300,000 Armenians and at least as many Turks died in civil strife when the Armenians took up arms for independence in eastern Anatolia and sided with Russian troops invading Ottoman soil.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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