Turks Lobby against French Bill Prohibiting Genocide Denial

(Combined Sources)–Several Turkish organizations published an open letter in French newspapers Friday calling on Parliament not to back a bill that would make it a punishable offense to deny "the existence of the 1915 Armenian genocide."

Proposed by members of the opposition Socialist Party (PS)–the bill will first be read before Parliament on May 18.

If approved–it would authorize a maximum five years in prison and a fine of 45,000 Euros for anyone who denies the Armenia’s genocide.

The same punishment already applies to those who deny that the Holocaust took place.

"If it were to be adopted–such a law would forbid any ulterior debate among historians wanting to shed light on the responsibilities of the parties to these tragic events," the Turkish organizations–including unions and business groups–said in their letter.

The bill follows a 2001 French law which officially recognized the Genocide.

According to the new bill’s sponsor PS Deputy Didier Migaud–the original law was insufficient because it did not include any way of punishing deniers.

Meanwhile in Turkey–a Turkish civil group began a boycott of French products and services in an attempt to hurt the French economy and lead to rejection of the bill.

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesperson Namik Tan said that approval of the bill would cause irreversible damage to Turkish-French ties.

Turkish Parliament Speaker Bulent Arinc sent a letter to his French counterpart on Monday telling him that judging history should be left to historians–not Parliamen’s. Arinc said that the French bill stifles freedom of expression and freedom of thought.

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