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Turkish Politician In Swiss Dock On Genocide Denial


Reuters
A Turkish politician on Tuesday went on trial in Switzerland for denying that mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915 amounted to genocide.

Dogu Perincek, head of the leftist-nationalist Turkish Workers' Party, called the Armenian genocide "an international lie" during a speech in the Swiss city of Lausanne in July 2005.

The state prosecutor has called for six months prison for violating a 1995 Swiss law which bans denying, belittling or justifying any genocide. The maximum penalty is three years.

Perincek told the Lausanne criminal court that there had been no genocide against Armenians, but there had been "reciprocal massacres", according to Swiss Radio. "I defend my right to freedom of expression. There was no genocide, therefore this law cannot apply to my remarks," it quoted the 65-year-old as saying in lengthy replies in German.

The case has further soured relations between neutral Switzerland and Turkey. Ankara criticized the decision to prosecute the case and later cancelled an official visit by then Economy Minister Joseph Deiss in 2005. If found guilty, Perincek would become the first person to be convicted under the law. Twelve Turks were acquitted of similar charges in 2001.

Turkey denies charges by Armenia and other countries that 1.5 million Armenians died in a systematic genocide at the hands of Ottoman Turks during World War One. Turkey says that hundreds of thousands of both Muslim Turks and Christian Armenians died in a conflict during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

Some 200 Turkish sympathizers, including former Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, held a silent protest in a Lausanne square to mark the opening of the trial, according to the Swiss news agency ATS. The verdict is expected on Friday.

Ankara was incensed last year when France's parliament approved a bill that made it a crime to deny the Armenian genocide. The bill did not become law.

The U.S. Congress is widely expected to back a resolution next month recognizing the killings as genocide. The Bush administration is opposed to the move, fearing the impact on relations with its NATO ally.
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