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France

Senators seek review of law on genocide denial

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2012-01-31

A group of French senators have asked the constitutional council to review a law passed last week outlawing the denial of a genocide recognised by French law, namely the Holocaust or the 1915-1916 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman Turks.

AFP - A group of French senators said Tuesday they had asked the constitutional council to examine a new law that punishes denial of the Armenian genocide, effectively suspending the legislation.

Turkey reacted furiously last week when the Senate approved the law which threatens with jail anyone in France who denies that the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman Turk forces amounted to genocide.

President Nicolas Sarkozy's office last Tuesday brushed off angry threats of retaliation by Turkey and vowed to enforce the law within a fortnight.

But the left-wing group of senators said Tuesday they had gathered 76 signatures from senators opposed to the law, more than the minimum 60 required to ask the council to examine the law's constitutionality.

The council is obliged to deliver its judgement within a month, but this can be reduced to eight days if the government deems the matter urgent.

Sarkozy's letter to Turkey

In a letter to Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan last week, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said a draft law making it illegal in France to deny a genocide was not aimed at targeting Ankara and urged Turkey to remember the many "common interests" it shares with France.

France's Senate passed a bill on Monday outlawing the denial of a genocide that has been recognised by French law, namely the Holocaust or the 1915-1916 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman Turks. Turkey had threatened to impose sanctions if the Senate passed the bill, which Erdogan has slammed as "racist".

A presidential source said on Tuesday that Sarkozy will likely sign the bill into law in the next two weeks.

 

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has denounced the law as "tantamount to discrimination and racism".

On Tuesday he hailed the French senators' move, speaking on television.

Erdogan has warned that his Islamist-rooted government would punish Paris with unspecified retaliatory measures if Sarkozy, whose right-wing UMP party initiated the bill, signed it into law.

France has already officially recognised the killings as a genocide, but the new law would go further by punishing anyone who denies this with up to a year in jail and a fine of 45,000 euros ($57,000).

Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their forebears were killed in 1915 and 1916 by the forces of Turkey's former Ottoman Empire.

Turkey disputes the figure, arguing that 500,000 died, and denies this was genocide, ascribing the toll to fighting and starvation during World War I and accusing the Armenians of siding with Russian invaders.

Armenia hailed the passage of the bill through the French Senate, with President Serzh Sarkisian writing in a letter to Sarkozy: "France has reaffirmed its greatness and power, its devotion to universal human values."
 

Date created : 2012-01-31

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