French Lower House Adopts Armenia `Genocide' Law
By Francois de Beaupuy and Mark Bentley
Oct. 12 (Bloomberg) -- France's lower house of Parliament
defied pleas by Turkish officials and adopted a law punishing anyone denying that the killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915 amounted to genocide.
Lawmakers of the National Assembly in Paris today voted 106- 19 in favor of the bill, which sets out fines of up to 45,000 euros ($56,460) and a year in prison for denying the events were genocide. French senators from the upper house will now examine the proposed legislation at a date yet to be specified.
The European Commission criticized the vote for hindering ``reconciliation'' over the killings, further straining the European Union's membership talks with Turkey. The Turkish Foreign Ministry said the vote ``dealt a heavy blow'' to bilateral relations with France.
``Turkey has no lesson to teach us on the repression of opinions,'' Patrick Devedjian, a French lawmaker of the governing UMP party of Armenian descent, said in the National Assembly today, in a reference to a Turkish law used to prosecute writers who challenge Turkey's denial of the genocide. ``The Turkish government is very hypocritical.''
Nobel PrizeTurkish novelist Orhan Pamuk
, who was prosecuted by Turkey's courts last year after he said Turks had persecuted Armenians, was today awarded the 2006 Nobel prize in literature. Pamuk is one of about 80 writers and intellectuals tried by the nation's courts over the past year for ``insulting Turkishness.''
An Istanbul-based court threw out the case against Pamuk in January.
The European Union says Turkey's refusal to acknowledge that 1.5 million Armenians were massacred during World War I clouds the nation's bid for membership. Accession talks began a year ago. Turkey denies Armenian allegations of genocide, saying tens of thousands of ethnic Turks and Armenians were killed after Armenian groups sided with Russia in the war.
``Should this law indeed enter into force, it would prohibit the debate and the dialogue which is necessary for reconciliation on this issue,'' European Commission enlargement spokeswoman Krisztina Nagy told a Brussels press conference today.
Turkey may bar French companies from bidding for state-owned assets, including nuclear power stations, if the bill becomes law, according to a report Oct. 7 in Turkey's Hurriyet newspaper that cited Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul. Hurriyet today carried a headline ``Liberte, Egalite, Stupidite,'' to describe the French Parliament's move.
Turkey `Loses Nothing'
``If this draft law is approved, Turkey will lose nothing, but France will first of all lose Turkey,'' Gul said in televised comments late yesterday.
``Relations between Turkey and France, which have been based on a long history and carefully developed through the centuries, have been dealt a heavy blow as a result of the irresponsible behavior of a group of French politicians who are incapable of comprehending the results of their policies,'' the Turkish foreign ministry said in an emailed statement today.
Zafer Caglayan, who heads the Ankara Chamber of Industry, planned to tell reporters during a visit to Paris today that the genocide never happened in the event lawmakers passed the draft bill, Turkish newspaper Vatan said.
Supporters of Galatasaray, an Istanbul-based soccer club, will protest the law with banners at a Champions League match in Bordeaux, France on Nov. 22, Vatan said today.
In his comments late yesterday, Gul said he hoped that France wouldn't ``fall victim to minor domestic political tools.''
``France will become a country that throws people in jail for expressing their thoughts, for expressing their opinions and for defending historical documents,'' he said.
France enacted a law in 2001 that classifies the Armenia killings as genocide. The legislation as proposed would make it a crime to deny that genocide, much as denial of the Holocaust is outlawed.
The proposed bill was introduced by the opposition Socialist Party. The French government itself opposes the bill, though the majority UMP party decided to let its lawmakers make their own decision in a free vote.
``Today, in France, a land of exile for our parents, Armenians continue to be persecuted by a state which not only doesn't recognize the Armenian genocide, but also organizes the negation of this genocide,'' the UMP's Devedjian told lawmakers today.