Turkey Drops Probe Into Armenian Apology Campaign

ANKARA (AFP)–A Turkish prosecutor has dropped a probe into a domestic campaign to apologize for the Armenian Genocide, citing laws protecting freedom of speech, the Anatolia news agency reported Monday.

The prosecutor decided there was no ground to bring charges over the petition because "in democratic societies opponent opinions are protected within the scope of freedom of expression," Anatolia said.

The probe was launched earlier this month after several Ankara residents filed a complaint asking for the organizers and signatories of an Internet petition apologizing for the deaths to be punished for "openly denigrating the Turkish nation", an offence that carries two years in prison.

The petition, posted online on December 15, states that the signatory "does not accept… the denial of the Great Catastrophe that the Ottoman Armenia’s were subjected to in 1915." It ends with an offer of apologies.

The text, which refrains from using the term "genocide" to describe the massacres, has been signed by more than 28,000 people, among them intellectuals and artists.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said last month that the online petition could undermine efforts to improve relations with neighboring Armenia, with which Turkey has no diplomatic ties. Babacan, along with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, slammed the initiative as baseless, and issued stern warnings that the grassroots apology to Turkey’s neighbors could derail attempts at reconciliation with Armenia. Turkish President Abdullah Gul, in early January, followed suit, warning the campaign could have a negative effect on Turkish-Armenian reconciliation. The two sides launched talks last year on normalizing relations.

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