By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: March 10, 2007
LAUSANNE, Switzerland, March 9 — A prominent Turkish politician was convicted Friday of breaching Swiss antiracism laws by saying that the early 20th-century killing of Armenians could not be described as genocide.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry reacted swiftly to the decision, saying in a statement that it was saddened by the Swiss court’s ruling to punish the politician, Dogu Perincek, leader of the Turkish Workers’ Party, and to ignore “his freedom of expression.”
Mr. Perincek was ordered to pay a fine of $2,450; an additional penalty of $7,360 was suspended.
He was charged with breaking Swiss law by denying during a visit to Switzerland in 2005 that the World War I era killings of up to 1.5 million Armenians amounted to genocide. He has since repeated his statements, including at his trial this week.
In Turkey it is a crime to use the word genocide to describe the killings.
Mr. Perincek accused the judge of “racist hatred” toward Turkey and said he would appeal the verdict to Switzerland’s supreme court.
If necessary, Mr. Perincek told Turkey’s government-run Anatolia news agency, he would take his case to the European Court of Human Rights.
In his closing statement, Judge Pierre-Henri Winzap described the defendant as an intelligent and cultivated person but added that to deny the Armenian genocide was an arrogant provocation because it was an accepted historical fact. Most Western governments consider the killings genocide.
Switzerland’s antiracism legislation has previously been applied to Holocaust denial.
The case has caused diplomatic tension between Switzerland and Turkey, which insists that Armenians were killed in civil unrest during the tumultuous collapse of the Ottoman Empire and not in a planned campaign of genocide.
In its response to the verdict the Turkish Foreign Ministry called into question the legitimacy of the Swiss law and said the case was “inappropriate, baseless and debatable in every circumstance.”