Switzerland's Federal Tribunal on Wednesday rejected a Turkish activist's appeal over his conviction for having denied that mass killings of Armenians during World War I constituted genocide.
Dogu Perincek, leader of a small left-wing group, the Turkish Workers' Party, will now take his case to the European Court of Human Rights, his lawyer Laurent Moreillon said.
The ruling by the Federal Tribunal, Switzerland's supreme court, confirmed an earlier judgment by a court in Lausanne on March 7 this year. It was the last legal recourse for Perincek inside Switzerland. The Lausanne court fined him 3,000 Swiss francs ($2,500 dollars) and gave him a suspended sentence for having "denied the Armenian genocide three times during meetings held in Switzerland in 2005, acting on racist motives."
Perincek had described the Armenian genocide under the Ottoman Empire as an "international lie".
Pierre-Henri Winzap, the judge who heard the Lausanne case, ruled that Perincek's comments had not been motivated by a wish to start a historical debate. He described the defendant as an "arrogant provocateur" with "racist and nationalist motives".
Wednesday's Federal Tribunal ruling rejected Perincek's argument that the Lausanne court had not taken adequate steps to establish that the killings did constitute genocide. It ruled that there was a historical consensus that the genocide took place and the defendant had not cited any facts to show the contrary.
A number of countries and official bodies, notably the European Parliament, Canada, France, and the US House of Representatives foreign affairs committee, have labeled the killings a genocide. Switzerland's lower parliamentary chamber also recognized the killings as genocide towards the end of 2003.
The Swiss-Armenia Association welcomed the latest ruling. "It is the first time at world level that a supreme court of criminal law hands down a conviction for denying the genocide of the Armenians," it said in a statement.
But Perincek's lawyer Moreillon made it clear the fight was not yet over. "We are turning to the European Court of Human Rights on a question of principle," he said.
But Wednesday's Federal Tribunal ruling is unlikely to please the Turkish government. A Turkish foreign ministry statement issued shortly after the original March judgment described it as unacceptable and criticized Swiss media coverage of the case as biased.