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Laurent Cipriani/AP/Press Association Images A woman holds a banner which says "You won't have my freedom of thought" as Turkish citizens from France demonstrate in front of the Senate in Paris, Monday, Jan. 23, 2012.

French senators approve draft of Armenian 'genocide-denial' bill

Turkey has reacted angrily to France’s moves to criminalise the act of denying that the mass killings of Armenians during WWI was genocide.

FRENCH SENATORS HAVE approved a draft law that would make it a crime to deny that the mass-killings of Armenians by Ottoman troops during WWI was genocide.

Under the proposed law, it would become a crime to state that the killings and forced displacement of an estimated 1 million to 1.5 million Armenians in 1915 was not genocide. Those in found guilty of denying or trivialising the event could face a €45,000 fine and jail time of up to one year.

Turkey has reacted furiously to the decision, threatening to place permanent sanctions on France. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called the bill “discriminatory and racist” and added he hoped the country would “correct its mistake”, Reuters reports.

Last month, Turkey temporarily withdrew its ambassador to France over suggestions that the draft law might be accepted.

Armenian response

Armenia’s Foreign Minster Edward Nalbandian welcomed the French decision, describing it as “a very important mechanism to prevent new crimes against humanity,” reports Hurriyet Daily News. “This is an important step by France which could be not only welcomed but supported by other states in Europe and elsewhere,” he said.

However, Nalbandian added that it was important for Turkey and Armenia to embrace their “common history” , and expressed hope that one day Turkey itself would recognise the event to be an act of genocide.

Turkey’s official line

Turkey does not hold that the mass deaths of Armenians constituted an act of genocide, and those questioning the state’s line on the issue have been prosecuted.

Hrant Dink, a Turkish journalist of Armenian descent who was fatally shot outside his newspaper’s offices in 2007, was repeatedly prosecuted for expressing criticisms of the Turkish government’s view of the killings – including a six-month suspended prison sentence for “denigrating Turkishness” in his writings.

Free speech

Amnesty International has come out in criticism of the bill, saying that it threatens freedom of expression.

“This bill, if implemented, would have a chilling effect on public debate and contravene France’s international obligations to uphold freedom of expression,” said Nicola Duckworth, Europe and Central Asia Director at Amnesty International.“People should be free to express their opinions on this issue – in France, Turkey and elsewhere.”

Read: State TV: Turkey recalls ambassador to France over genocide-denial bill>

Read: Turkish PM issues first ever apology for killing of 14,000 Kurds>

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