Switzerland Confirms Legal Case against Turkish Professor

ANKARA (Combined Sources)–Switzerland confirmed opening a legal investigation against Turkish Institute of History (TTK) Chairman Prof. Dr. Yusuf Halacoglu about his statement on the Armenian genocide.

Swiss authorities placed the Turkish professor on their red list for his claims that there was no Armenian genocide by Ottoman Turkey.

The step comes after Yusuf Halacoglu’s insistent and public rejection last year of the Armenian genocide–when he said that Armenia’s–in fact–killed Ottomans–and claimed that "many studies had been conducted in the archives of several countries–and mostly in that of the Ottoman Empire–but have not turned up a single document or record mentioning genocide."

Releasing a statement on Monday–the Swiss Embassy in Ankara said–"It is true that a complaint against Prof. Halacoglu was deposited by a third party–not by an official state prosecutor–with the competent local legal authorities of Winterthur after Prof. Halacoglu delivered there in spring of last year a speech on the Armenian issue."

"According to Swiss legal procedures–an investigation has to be opened after the deposition of any complaint to clarify the facts. This investigation against Prof. Halacoglu is still pending. In the context of this investigation–the local legal authorities of Winterthur have forwarded in a normal and ordinary procedure an information request regarding the personal data of Prof. Halacoglu via Interpol to the competent Turkish authorities," it said.

The Swiss Embassy denied allegations that Prof. Halacoglu was condemned–formally accused–or searched by the Swiss authorities.

Noting that local legal authorities in Winterthur had not yet decided whether the complaint was acceptable or not–the Embassy said–"they need further necessary information before they can take any decision in this case."

"The Swiss government welcomes the proposal of the Turkish government that a joint commission by Turkish and Armenian historians is looking into this issue," the Embassy added.

The Armenian genocide issue has overshadowed Turkey-Switzerland relations from time to time. The dispute comes at a time when relations between the two countries appeared to be calming down after a period that was marked by tensions over the Armenian genocide.

The canton of Vaud’s parliament voted to recognize the Armenian genocide–leading to Ankara withdrawing an invitation for Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey to visit Turkey in September 2003.

A similar vote on the Armenian matter by the House of Representatives three months later drew fresh condemnation from Turkey.

Calmy-Rey finally made the trip to Ankara at the end of March this year–which resulted in the two countries agreeing to disagree over the Armenian issue.

Winterthur’s prosecuting magistrate Andrej Gnehm also said on Monday that he had asked Interpol to provide him with information about the historian. Insisting that that Halacoglu be interrogated to decide whether to go further with the investigation–Gnehm added that denying the fact of the Armenian genocide is equivalent to denying the Holocaust.

Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul told Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper on Monday that the decision by the canton of Zurich and some European parliamen’s to "forbid the rejection of the Armenian genocide" was a "terrible mistake".

Gul added that Zurich’s inquiry was also against the European Agreement on Human Rights and that Europe was "trampling on its own foundations" by stopping the freedom of expression.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said on Monday that it had summoned the Swiss ambassador to Turkey–Walter Gyger–to explain the move. The Turkish embassy in the Swiss capital–Bern–has also protested to the Swiss government.

It added–however–that Bern and Ankara were "closely collaborating" and that Switzerland had been cooperative over the matter.

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