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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 March 2007, 17:28 GMT
Swiss 'genocide' trial for Turk
Dogu Perincek
Dogu Perincek's case risks straining Swiss-Turkish relations
A Turkish nationalist leader has gone on trial in Switzerland for denying that the mass killings of Armenians in Turkey in 1915 amounted to "genocide".

Dogu Perincek, 65, is accused under Swiss law of racial discrimination.

The Swiss parliament, along with more than a dozen countries, recognises the killings as "genocide". Turkey firmly rejects the "genocide" allegation.

The prosecutor in the city of Lausanne called for a six-month jail sentence for genocide denial.

Dogu Perincek, head of the Turkish Workers' Party, made the statements in a public speech in Lausanne in 2005.

"I have not denied genocide because there was no genocide," he said in court on Tuesday.

Cristoph Blocher
Cristoph Blocher opposes the criminalising of genocide denial

Armenians say 1.5 million of their people were killed in a genocide by Ottoman Turks during World War I, either through systematic massacres or through starvation. More than a dozen countries, various international bodies and many Western historians agree that it was "genocide".

Turkey says there was no genocide. It acknowledges that many Armenians died, but says the figure was below one million.

A law criminalising the denial of genocide was adopted in 2003 by the parliament in the Swiss canton of Vaud.

Twelve Turks prosecuted in Switzerland on similar charges in 2001 were acquitted.

In a controversial move, Swiss Justice Minister Christoph Blocher, who opposes the Swiss law on genocide, met his Turkish counterpart Cemil Cicek in Bern at the weekend.

Mr Blocher, leader of the right-wing Swiss Popular Party, caused a furore in Switzerland when he suggested in October 2006, during a visit to Turkey, that the Swiss law should be changed.

Q&A: Armenian 'genocide'
12 Oct 06 |  Europe
Turkey's Armenian dilemma
27 Feb 07 |  Europe
Banning the freedom to deny
07 Feb 07 |  Europe

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