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Tuesday, 4 September, 2001, 14:13 GMT 15:13 UK
Armenia 'genocide' row in Swiss court
Armenian demonstrators outside the European Parliament in Strasbourg
Armenians say up to 1.5 million were killed
A Swiss court is hearing a test case on whether the 1915-1920 killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks should be termed genocide.

Seventeen people - all members of Turkish associations - face trial on charges of racial discrimination on a complaint brought by the Armenia-Switzerland Association (ASA).

Anniversary of the massacre in New York
Survivors mark the 85th anniversary of the killings
It is the latest attempt by the ASA to get Switzerland to accept that the deaths of 500,000 to 1.5 million Armenians towards the end of the Ottoman Empire amounted to genocide.

The 17 are accused of having "denied, minimised or sought to justify" the killings in statements.

The charges have previously only been used in cases relating to the massacre of European Jews in World War II.

Turkey rejects the term "genocide." It says about 300,000 Armenians died in what it calls a revolt against the authorities.

The Turkish Government says it wants to leave the issue to historians.

'Freedom of speech'

The Turkish embassy in Switzerland has said it will monitor the court proceedings in Bern and that it considered the statements to be covered under Swiss laws on freedom of speech.

Six months ago, the Swiss parliament narrowly rejected a motion to recognise the killings as genocide.

French Armenians
Armenians celebrated the French parliament's decision
Instead, it has spoken of "the tragic events leading to the death of a very high number of Armenians."

A verdict is expected on 14 September.

In January, the French parliament passed a bill recognising the killings as genocide, causing Turkey to recall its ambassador and cancel contracts with French companies.

The European Parliament has also called on Turkey to recognise publicly that the killings were genocide.

Last year, the American House of Representatives withdrew a draft resolution which labelled the killings as genocide, at the request of President Bill Clinton.

Turkey is a key Nato ally of the United States.

See also:

02 Feb 01 | Europe
Turkey: Angry man of Europe
08 Nov 00 | Media reports
French vote recognises 'Armenian genocide'
04 Oct 00 | Europe
Turkey scraps US visit
23 Sep 00 | Media reports
Turkey angry at US Armenian genocide move
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