Turkish Minister Repeats Denial of Armenian Genocide, Despite Swiss Investigation

Posted February 7th, 2012 at 5:40 am (UTC-5)
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A Turkish official on Tuesday stood by his position that Ottoman Turks did not commit genocide against Armenians, after similar comments last week made him the focus of an investigation by Swiss authorities.

Turkey's European Union Affairs Minister Egemen Bagis told reporters last week during a visit to Zurich that the incidents in 1915 “did not amount to genocide,” adding “let them come arrest me.”

Those comments are illegal under Swiss anti-racism laws, which make it a crime to deny that the mass killings of Armenians by Turks nearly 100 years ago were genocide.

Swiss authorities have opened an investigation into the matter after complaints by a Swiss Armenian group.

In response, Turkey has summoned the Swiss ambassador in Ankara.

Bagis told reporters Tuesday that he is “very confident” that he cannot be arrested by Swiss authorities for making the comment. Bagis may have diplomatic immunity from prosecution.

France's Senate approved similar legislation last month, drawing outrage by Turkish officials, who denounced the law as “discriminatory and racist.”

But more than 130 French lawmakers are calling on the country's highest court to overturn the law, saying the subject is still under debate and that the new law infringes on the right to free speech. The court has a month to decide on the issue.

Armenia says 1.5 million Armenians were killed during World War I 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.