French council to review genocide denial law

Story highlights

  • Sixty-five deputies and 76 senators support the review
  • Turkey applauds the move, describes it as a "very esteemed initiative"
  • Turkish prime minister had described the law as "a massacre of freedom of thought"
  • The law does not specifically mention the massacre of Armenians by Ottoman Turks
French lawmakers have asked the country's constitutional council to examine a new law that punishes the denial of genocide with fines and prison time.
The French Senate said Wednesday that 65 deputies and 76 senators supported the review to determine whether it is constitutional and legal.
Turkey, which has made no secret it was vehemently opposed to the French law, applauded the latest development, describing it as a "very esteemed initiative."
The law does not specifically mention the World War I massacre of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Armenians by Ottoman Turks. But most of the seven-hour debate in the French Senate on January 23 focused on the memory of the Armenian genocide.
The Turkish government denounced the law after 127 senators voted in favor of it in the upper house of France's parliament last month.
Turkey's prime minister called it "a massacre of freedom of thought" and vowed to lobby for a petition of 60 French lawmaker signatures to block the law in France's constitutional council.
According to the French legislation, "those who have publicly denied or trivialized crimes of genocide" can face a year in prison and/or a fine of 45,000 euros.
Within minutes of the vote in favor of the law in Paris, Armenia's foreign minister issued a statement of gratitude that declared France "a genuine defender of universal human values."
"This day will be written in gold," wrote Edward Nalbandian.
Every year, Armenians around the world commemorate the 1915 slaughter of more than 1.2 million ethnic Armenians.
The Turkish government rejects the term "genocide" to refer to this dark and bloody chapter of history. Many Turkish politicians and historians argue Muslim Turks were also massacred by Armenian militias in the final days of the Ottoman Empire.
Instead, Ankara spends significant political capital and issues threats in an attempt to block initiatives in the U.S. Congress to formally recognize the Armenian genocide.
After the French lower house of parliament passed the genocide law in December, Turkey temporarily withdrew its ambassador from Paris and suspended military ties with France.
Turkish politicians have warned of further sanctions against France if President Nicolas Sarkozy allows the new law to go into effect.