28 Feb 2012

President Nicolas Sarkozy has ordered his government to draft a new
law punishing denial of the Armenian genocide after France's top
court struck it down as unconstitutional.

Mr Sarkozy was accused of pandering to an estimated 400,000 voters
of Armenian origin ahead of an April-May presidential election

Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their forebears were killed in
a 1915-16 genocide by Turkey's former Ottoman Empire. Turkey says
500,000 died and ascribes the toll to fighting and starvation during
World War I.

France had already recognised the killings as a genocide, but the new
law sought to go further by punishing anyone who denies this with up
to a year in jail and a fine of 45,000 euros (£38,000).

However, the Constitutional Council labelled the law an
"unconstitutional attack on freedom of expression" and it said it
wished "not to enter into the realm of responsibility that belongs
to historians".

Turkey quickly welcomed the ruling on the law which Prime Minister
Recep Tayyip Erdogan has denounced as "tantamount to discrimination
and racism".

Bulent Arinc, Turkey's deputy prime minister, said on Twitter the
ruling "has averted a potentially serious crisis in Turkish-French

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22 Dec 2011 The decision "does not indulge political concerns," Arinc
said after Mr Sarkozy was accused of pandering to an estimated 400,000
voters of Armenian origin ahead of an April-May presidential election.

The top court "gave a lesson in law to the French politicians who
signed the bill, which was an example of absurdity," said Arinc.

Turkey's EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bagis said France had averted a
"historical mistake", and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called
the decision "an important step that will legally avert future

However, Mr Sarkozy's office quickly put out a statement saying the
president "has ordered the government to prepare a new draft, taking
into account the Constitutional Council's decision."

Mr Sarkozy noted "the great disappointment and profound sadness of
all those who welcomed with hope and gratitude the adoption of this
law aimed at providing protection against revisionism."

After winning passage in the National Assembly and Senate, the law
was put on hold in January after groups of senators and MPs opposed
to the legislation demanded that its constitutionality be examined.

The groups gathered more than the minimum 60 signatures required to
ask the council to test the law's constitutionality.

At least two ministers, Foreign Minister Alain Juppe and Agriculture
Minister Bruno Le Maire, had spoken out against the bill.

Ankara has already halted political and military co-operation with
France and had threatened to cut off economic and cultural ties.

Trade between the two states was worth 12 billion euros ($15.5 billion)
in 2010, and several hundred French businesses operate in Turkey.

Valerie Boyer, the MP from Mr Sarkozy's party who proposed the bill,
said she was "sad but determined" following the council's ruling,
noting that under French law it was a punishable crime to deny the

"Today under French law there are two types of victims and two types of
descendants of victims ... Some are protected from revisionist acts
and some are not, and I think this is a serious double standard,"
Boyer said.

From: A. Papazian