French court asked to rule on genocide bill

AP News
Posted: Jan 31, 2012 10:38 AM
French court asked to rule on genocide bill

France's Constitutional Council has been asked on Tuesday to determine whether a bill concerning the mass killings of Armenians a century ago violates the constitution.

The bill makes it a crime to deny that the killings of some 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915 constituted genocide. Turkey, which says there was no systematic campaign against Armenians, is strongly opposed to the bill and says relations with France will suffer as a result.

Turkey suspended military and economic cooperation after the lower house approval of the measure in December. The Senate gave it the green light in late January.

President Nicolas Sarkozy _ who personally backed the bill _ must sign the legislation for it to become law. However, the latest action will delay the process.

The Constitutional Council said groups of legislators have submitted a formal request that the body rule on the measure's constitutionality. It has up to a month to do so.

Turkish officials welcomed the move. President Abdullah Gul said, "I hope the French court makes the right decision."

Even within the French mainstream, the measure sowed divisions on Sarkozy's right and on the rival left with some lawmakers expressing some of the same concerns as Ankara, notably that denying the mass killings of Armenians nearly a century ago impinges on freedom of expression and legislates in a domain better left to historians.

France's relations with Turkey are already strained, in large part because Sarkozy opposes Turkey's entry into the European Union.