French President Nicolas Sarkozy has ordered his government to draft a new law making it a crime to publicly deny the Ottoman Empire’s genocide of 1.5 million Armenians during World War I, after France’s Constitutional Court struck down a previous iteration of the bill on Tuesday. Both houses of the French parliament passed the bill.
Sarkozy was due to ratify the law by the end of this month. However, France’s top court ruled today that the law would violate freedom of expression and speech, both of which are protected under the French constitution, the Associated Press reported.
Taking into consideration the “great disappointment and profound sadness” of the law’s supporters, Sarkozy’s office issued a statement saying:
“The President of the Republic considers that [genocide] denial is intolerable and must therefore be punished. He has asked the government to prepare a new draft taking into account the decision of the Constitutional Court,” according to the BBC.
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Turkey denies a genocide took place, blaming the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Armenian Christians, as well as Turkish Muslims, on intercommunal violence.
It had initially welcomed the court’s ruling, with the Turkish foreign ministry describing it as “pleasing that a grave mistake has been corrected by the highest legal authority in France,” CNN reported.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had indicated that the cabinet would convene to consider reopening political, economic and military contacts with its NATO ally. Contracts were frozen after the French parliament approved the bill on January 23, sparking angry protests in both Paris and Ankara.
However Turkish officials had no immediate comment on Sarkozy’s proposal for a fresh draft of the legislation, Reuters reported.
The French will go to the polls to choose a new president on April 22 and May 6. Turkey claims that Sarkozy’s center-right government had backed the bill to gain the support of the half a million Armenians residing in France, according to GlobalPost.
France already recognizes the killings of the Armenians as an act of genocide, but the proposed law would have imposed a €45,000 fine, a one-year prison sentence, or both, on anyone denying it.
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