Turks Can Be Tried for Apology

ANKARA (Combined Sources)–A Turkish court ruled Monday that criminal proceedings could be launched against the authors and signatories of a petition that apologizes to Armenia’s for what they called “the Great Catastrophe of 1915.”

The decision by the High Criminal Court in Sincan, on the outskirts of Ankara, repeals a Jan. 26 ruling by the prosecutor general that bringing charges would impinge on freedom of speech laws, the Anatolia news agency said.

The prosecutor’s office had concluded that there was no need for criminal prosecution on the legal grounds that opposing opinions are also protected under freedom of speech in democratic societies.

The probe was launched after several Ankara residents filed a complaint asking for those involved with the petition to be punished for "openly denigrating the Turkish nation", an offense that carries two years in prison.

But according to the Sincan court, criminal proceedings can now be launched against the organizers of the Internet petition, which was launched on Dec. 15, and the subsequent 29,000 signatories, Turkish media reported.

The online petition had stated that signatories regret "that we remain indifferent to the Great Catastrophe that Ottoman Armenia’s endured…and that we deny," and offers apologies.

Armenia and Turkey offer starkly different accounts of the events, and the dispute has been a major obstacle in relations between the two countries.

The petition, which does not use the term "genocide" to describe the massacres, has been signed by more than 29,000 people in Turkey, among them intellectuals and artists.

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