Turkey’s minister for European Union affairs said on Tuesday that he is untroubled by Swiss authorities’ decision to consider prosecuting him for denying that the 1915 Armenian massacres in the Ottoman Empire constituted genocide.
The minister, Egemen Bagis, reportedly denied the genocide late last month at the World Economic Forum in Davos and also at a concert in Zurich. “Let them come and arrest me,” media reports quoted him as saying.
The Zurich state prosecutor's office said on Monday Swiss officials started an initial probe into Bagis's remarks after receiving a complaint from the Switzerland-Armenia group. “It’s all in the initial stages,” Christine Braunschweig, an attorney for the office, said, according to Reuters. “We don't yet know how, what or when” any remarks were made, she said.
Switzerland’s ambassador in Ankara was summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry later on Monday. “This is not acceptable. The envoy has been summoned for an explanation,” a ministry official told Reuters.
“Hurriyet Daily News” reported that Bagis called the Swiss probe “null and void” as he prepared to fly to Brussels on Tuesday. “I know of no power that could arrest a Turkish minister,” he told journalists. “If need be, I’ll go back to Davos and say it again.”
“I hear they’re trying to confirm whether or not I said those words,” Bagis said. “Let them waste no time. I said it, and I repeat it today. I will repeat it again when I'm asked in future visits to Switzerland.”
Swiss anti-racism laws make it a crime to deny a genocide. Switzerland’s parliament recognized World War I-era slaughter of some 1.5 million Armenians as genocide in 2003.
Swiss prosecutors have already used the legislation against several people who publicly denied the Armenian genocide. One of those individuals, Turkish politician Dogu Perincek, was fined 3,000 Swiss francs ($3,3000) in 2007.