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Swiss court rejects appeal from Turkish politician

Perinçek takes his appeal to Switzerland's supreme court

(Keystone)

An appeals court has confirmed the sentence against a Turkish politician, Doğu Perinçek, for denying that the killings of Armenians early last century were genocide.

Perinçek, leader of the Turkish Workers' Party, is to lodge a further appeal at Switzerland's highest instance, the Federal Court, his lawyer said on Wednesday.

A court in Lausanne convicted Perinçek in March and ordered him to pay a fine of SFr3,000 ($2,424.6).

He was also handed a suspended fine of SFr9,000 and ordered to pay SFr1,000 to the Swiss-Armenian Association as a symbolic gesture.

Perinçek had repeatedly denied during a visit to Switzerland in 2005 that the First World War era killings of more than 1.5 million Armenians amounted to genocide.

Test case

The case was considered a test of whether it is a violation of Switzerland's anti-racism legislation to deny that the killings were genocide.

In March, Perinçek had termed the verdict "racist and imperialist".

He admitted in court that there had been massacres but said there could be no talk of genocide. "I have not denied genocide because there was no genocide," he argued.

Armenians maintain the mass killings were genocide, a charge Turkey disputes.

Decision welcomed

The Swiss-Armenian Society welcomed the decision by the appeals court in canton Vaud in western Switzerland.

Perinçek's lawyer, Laurent Moreillon, said he would now take the case to the Federal Court in Lausanne, but made no further comment on the decision.

"I shall wait for the reasons [for the rejection of the appeal], he said.

The case caused diplomatic tensions between Switzerland and Turkey, which insists that the Armenians were killed in civil unrest during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and not in a planned campaign of genocide.

Ankara has called the case against Perinçek "inappropriate, baseless and debatable in every circumstance".

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

In 2001 a court in canton Bern acquitted several Turks accused of denying the Armenian genocide.

Its reasons were the lack of an official recognition of the genocide as such in Switzerland and the "obtuse nationalism" of the accused. The Federal Court, Switzerland's highest legal authority, confirmed the acquittal in 2002.

In 2005, Swiss authorities also launched criminal investigations against the historian Yusuf Halacoglu, the president of the Turkish History Organisation, for allegedly denying the 1915 Armenian massacre while in Switzerland.

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Armenian question

The Armenians say Ottoman Turks slaughtered up to 1.8 million Armenians in a planned genocide between 1915 and 1918. Turkey denies the mass killings were genocide, saying the death toll is inflated.

So far most historians, the Council of Europe, the French parliament and the Swiss House of Representatives – along with cantons Vaud and Geneva – have all recognised the events as genocide. But neither the Senate nor the cabinet has officially done so.

The Armenian question has long affected relations between Switzerland and Turkey, including the postponing of official visits.

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