French law on Armenian genocide hurts free speech: Turkey

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Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Wednesday that a proposed French law against denying the Armenian genocide was a "nonsensical" attack on freedom of expression.

"This bill is nonsensical from the start. A state that dictates to society what it cannot say... is equally dictating to society what it can say, and this is where the real danger lies," Davutoglu wrote in an opinion piece published in French daily Liberation.

The French parliament is to debate the bill, which would see anyone in France who publicly denies the genocide facing a year in jail and a fine of 45,000 euros ($58,000), on Thursday and is expected to approve it.

Turkey has piled pressure on France to drop the law ahead of the vote, with President Abdullah Gul and a Turkish delegation to Paris on Tuesday warning its adoption will spark a diplomatic crisis and have economic consequences.

"If it adopts this bill up for debate tomorrow, the French National Assembly will be taking a measure aimed at hushing up history by condemning it to show only one side of the story and penalising freedom of expression," Davutoglu wrote.

Armenia says up to 1.5 million of its people were killed during World War I by forces belonging to Turkey's former Ottoman Empire.

Turkey rejects the term genocide and says between 300,000 and 500,000 Armenians, and at least as many Turks, died in combat or from starvation when Armenians rose up and sided with invading Russian forces.

France recognised the killings as genocide in 2001.

© 2011 AFP

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