SWITZERLAND DETAINS TURKISH POLITICIAN FOR DENYING THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE
SWITZERLAND DETAINS TURKISH POLITICIAN FOR DENYING THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE
By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
In recent years, tensions have been steadily mounting between Switzerland and Turkey following the adoption of resolutions recognizing the Armenian Genocide by various Swiss cities, cantons (states) and the Federal Parliament. Visits by government ministers and parliamentary groups have been postponed or cancelled and economic/political relations have been adversely affected.
A new dispute between the two countries flared up this past weekend when a large number of Turks from several European countries and Turkey arrived in Switzerland to celebrate the 82nd anniversary of the Treaty of Lausanne which marked the foundation of the Turkish Republic and reversed the ceding of lands to various nationalities, including the Armenians, as mandated three years earlier by the Treaty of Sevres.
Among the dignitaries expected to travel to Switzerland on this occasion were Rauf Denktash, Former President of Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus, Dr. Yusuf Halacoglu, Chairman of the Turkish History Foundation, Dogu Perincek, Chairman of the Workers' Party in Turkey, and several other well-known revisionists of the Armenian Genocide, including Gunduz Aktan, former member of the infamous Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Commission, Dr. Hikmet Ozdemir, Head of the Armenian Studies Department of the Turkish History Foundation, and Sukru Elekdag, former Turkish Ambassador to the United States.
At the last minute, Dr. Halacoglu had second thoughts and decided not to travel to Switzerland. He told the Turkish media that he was concerned about "possible provocations" against him, as he had been summoned by a Swiss Court for having questioned the veracity of the Armenian Genocide in remarks made on May 4, 2004, in Winterthur, in violation of Swiss law which prohibits the denial, belittling or justifying of genocide. It is not known if Aktan, Elekdag and Ozdemir ended up going to Switzerland. They may have also changed their travel plans to avoid similar legal action against them.
Dogu Perincek did go, however, only to get himself in legal trouble with the Swiss authorities. He had already made denialist statements on the Armenian Genocide during a previous visit to Lausanne and Bern on May 7, 2005. The Swiss-Armenia Association alerted the Swiss authorities on July 15, 2005 that he and other Turkish denialists were about to enter the country with the intent of breaking Swiss laws once again.
Last Saturday, after Perincek told reporters in Winterthur that "the Armenian Genocide is an international lie," he was detained and questioned for several hours by the public prosecutor. Winterthur police spokesman Werner Benz was quoted as saying that Perincek was interrogated for denying the Armenian Genocide. A criminal probe was launched against him as he is suspected of violating Swiss anti-racism laws. During his questioning, he was accompanied by two Turkish lawyers and diplomats representing the Turkish Embassy in Bern.
Following his conditional release, Perincek bragged about his confrontation with the Swiss prosecutor. He boldly repeated the same lies about the Armenian Genocide the next day in Lausanne, even though he was warned by the Winterthur public prosecutor not to make similar denialist statements in future public appearances in Switzerland. Following his remarks, the public prosecutor in Lausanne requested that Perincek appear in front of him to be interrogated at a later date.
While Perincek was gloating over the fact that he had defended the honor of Turkey in Switzerland, little did he realize that he was inadvertently helping publicize the Armenian Genocide. Thanks to Perincek's misguided efforts, newspapers, wire services and TV stations around the world printed and aired hundreds of news items in dozens of languages. No amount of money spent by Armenians could have bought this kind of international publicity for the Armenian Genocide.
To make matters worse for the Turks, the Foreign Minister of Turkey, Abdullah Gul, issued a statement condemning the Swiss authorities for detaining Perincek. He thereby helped generate even more publicity for the Armenian Genocide in the international media. As the official of an autocratic state, Gul put himself in the ridiculous position of lecturing the Swiss authorities on "respecting the principle of freedom." He threatened that Turkey would take necessary steps in light of further assessments of the situation. "We became involved the minute we heard that Perincek had been taken to the prosecutor's office for questioning. Our Consul in Zurich, Mehmet Emre, has been with Perincek every step along the way. Our Ambassador in Bern, Alev Kilic, has been keeping me up to date on all of the developments. And I have been keeping the Prime Minister up to date through the night. It is simply not possible for us to accept this being done to a Turkish leader of a political party," Gul said.
After such around the clock monitoring of the situation, Armenians would hope that Gul would carry out his threats and take retaliatory steps against Switzerland, thereby further antagonizing the Swiss against Turkey. The additional political fireworks would result in even more media coverage of the Armenian Genocide.
While pretending to defend the principles of freedom and coming to the rescue of a fellow Turk, Gul may not have paid sufficient attention to the fact that he was actually supporting one of the most dubious characters in Turkish politics. A Turkish journalist, who was in Lausanne covering the event, was quoted by the Swiss "24 Heures" as saying that he deplored the "extremist" speeches delivered on that day. He said that Dogu Perincek had very few followers in Turkey. The Swiss paper also reported that even some Turks were keeping their distance from the events in Lausanne.
Who actually is Dogu Perincek? He is the Chairman of a minor leftist party. The State Department reported that he "served 11 months in prison on a sentence for illegal possession of classified state documents, assisting a terrorist organization, and possession of unlicensed firearms." He was subsequently "acquitted on charges of assisting the PKK and possessing secret state documents."
According to Mehmet Ali Birand, a prominent Turkish journalist, Perincek's party received less than 1% of the votes in the last elections. Furthermore, Birand states that Perincek has written in his book on Kemalism that there were "fascistic practices during the Ataturk era." Perincek has referred to the Turkish Armed Forces "as a fascistic army," according to Birand. Does Gul share Perincek's views on Ataturk's fascistic rule and the fascistic army? Birand writes that "in many of his speeches Perincek likened Ataturk…to Milosevic and Saddam."
Furthermore, Birand states that Perincek called Rauf Denktash, the former President of Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus, "a British collaborator." Perincek now hails Denktash as a national hero and accompanied him "to celebrate the Turkish victory at Lausanne." According to the Kurdistan Observer, before becoming a Kemalist, Perincek was a Maoist.
It is simply amazing that the likes of Perincek and Gul dare to open their mouths and give a country like Switzerland lessons in democracy and freedom of speech. Nevertheless, the more they talk, the more they disgrace themselves and the more they provide free publicity for the Armenian Cause.
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