French Lawmakers Seek Rejection of Armenian Genocide Law

Posted January 31st, 2012 at 1:00 pm (UTC-5)
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French lawmakers are calling on the country's constitutional court to examine and overturn a new law punishing denial of the Armenian genocide.

Lawmakers from both the Senate and the lower house of parliament who oppose the law made the appeal to the court Tuesday, saying they had gathered the more than 60 signatures needed to request the review.

The court is expected to make its decision within a month. If it finds the law unconstitutional, the legislation will be rejected.

Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, welcomed the development.

The bill, which the French Senate approved last week, makes it a crime to deny that the mass killings of Armenians by Turks nearly 100 years ago were genocide.

Under the bill, anyone who says the killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks is not genocide faces a $60,000 fine and up to one year in jail.

Armenia says 1.5 million Armenians were killed during World War One by troops of Turkey's Ottoman Empire. Turkey says Armenians were killed as part of a civil war and says the death toll is exaggerated. It says the deaths do not constitute genocide.

Prime Minister Erdogan last week denounced the law as “discriminatory and racist” and said Turkey would punish France with unspecified measures.

Turkey briefly recalled its ambassador to France when the lower house passed the bill in December. It also banned the French navy from using its territorial waters and restricted French military jets from using its airspace. The French Foreign Ministry called on Turkey not to overreact, saying France considers Turkey a “very important ally.”

Relations between France and Turkey, both members of NATO, have been frozen due to French opposition to Turkey's bid to join the European Union.