|September 19, 2005 | Agence France Presse |
TURKISH POLITICIAN FACES SWISS PROBES OVER ARMENIAN GENOCIDE DENIAL
Swiss justice authorities announced Monday that they are investigating
a Turkish politician who said the killings of Armenians during World
War I could not be classified as genocide.
Dogu Perincek, leader of the small leftist Turkish Workers Party,
is suspected of breaching Switzerland's anti-racism laws, which ban
any denial of genocidal killing, Bern investigators said.
Perincek fell foul of police who recorded a speech he made at a rally
organised in Bern Sunday by his party.
Separately, justice officials in Zurich said they were set to launch an
investigation after Perincek repeated his remarks at a press conference
in the city Monday, saying the genocide claim was a "historical lie."
The politician said he was the victim of a "witch hunt."
Perincek is a regular visitor to Switzerland and it is not his first
brush with justice officials -- his latest trip followed a summons
by investigators in Lausanne, who are looking into similar comments
he made there in the past and are due to question him Tuesday.
Perincek said he would stick to his position, and provide officials
with "historical proof" to counter genocide claims.
The politician was detained and questioned briefly in July after a
speech at a meeting near Zurich. After his release, he repeated his
denials in an interview with a Swiss newspaper and said Switzerland's
anti-racism laws were tantamount to "medieval inquisition."
Perincek also faces a complaint lodged in mid-July by the
Swiss-Armenian Association following a speech he gave here in May.
Perincek's previous tussles with the Swiss sparked a spat with Turkey,
with Ankara calling off a visit by Swiss Economy Minister Joseph
Deiss in July.
Turkish authorities have pressed the Swiss government over his case
and other probes of alleged genocide denial -- including one by
leading Turkish historian Yusuf Halacoglu at a conference near Zurich.
But Swiss officials have consistently responded that the country's
justice system is independent of the government.
Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their kinsmen died in orchestrated
killings during the final years of the Turkish Ottoman Empire.
Like their counterparts in France and Canada and a number of other
countries, Swiss lawmakers have accepted that the slaughter was an
act of genocide.
Turkey has acknowledged that massacres took place under the Ottoman
Empire, but contests the figures and the use of the term genocide.
Turkish authorities say that 300,000 Armenians and as many Turks
were killed in a civil war when the Armenians, backed by Russia,
rose up against the empire.