By Emil Danielyan
Turkish prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation into Catholicos Garegin II’s calls for Turkey to recognize the 1915 mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide, it emerged on Thursday.
Ending a five-day visit to Istanbul on Sunday, the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church said the Armenian genocide is a fact that can not be disputed by the Turkish government and scholars. “For our people, the Genocide is not a matter for research – it is a reality of fact that happened, which must be recognized,” he told a news conferencethere. “That (recognition) is naturally the desired option, but a negative position can also be taken on this issue.”
The Turkish Cihan news agency reported that the prosecutor’s office in Istanbul believes that Garegin thereby “denigrated Turkishness” and are considering bringing relevant criminal charges against him. It said the inquiry was launched after a written complaint lodged by an association of Turkish nationalist lawyers. Members of the association were reportedly among a small number of people who staged daily protests last week against Garegin’s presence in Istanbul.
Garegin would be prosecuted, in absentia, under a highly controversial article of the Turkish criminal code that has already been applied against writer Orhan Pamuk and other prominent Turkish intellectuals who have questioned official Ankara’s vehement denial of the genocide. The European Union, which has condemned the high-profile case against Pamuk, is pushing for the abolition of the clause.
Garegin arrived in Turkey on June 20 at the invitation of the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and the spiritual leader of the local Armenian community, Patriarch Mesrob II. Turkish media quoted the latter as openly disavowing the Armenian pontiff’s genocide remarks and saying that highly sensitive issue must be dealt with by historians only.
During his Instabul news confernece, Garegin also welcomed the fact that the genocide issue is no longer a taboo in Turkey. “We are satisfied to see that in the life of Turkish society, within democratization processes, people are speaking and reflecting on the issue of the Genocide during the First World War to a certain extent,” he said.