Rene -- Turkish teachers risk jail for protest at Armenian massacresconference -- 07.02.03
Agence France Presse
July 1, 2003 Tuesday 11:57 AM Eastern Time
ANKARA, July 1
A Turkish court Tuesday began hearing a case against seven teachers
who face jail for questioning the country's official line on the
massacre of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire and for disrupting a
conference on the issue, the Anatolia news agency reported.
The incident occurred last month in the southern city of Kilis during
a conference given by a scholar, who argued that the Armenians --
forced out of eastern Anatolia after revolting against their Ottoman
rulers during World War I -- were not massacred on orders of the
The scholar said the Armenians had instead died while being
transferred to the deserts of Syria because of bad weather or because
of raids by local Kurdish tribes.
But Hulya Akpinar, a teacher attending the gathering, contested the
figure of 250,000 Armenian victims given the scholar, and said
800,000 were killed in massacres orchestrated by the state.
She also asked what Turkey might do if more countries decided to term
the massacres a genocide.
The scholar chided the woman, who -- joined by six colleagues --
walked out in protest.
Prosecutors contend the seven defendants, who face up to three years
in jail if convicted, "committed a collective crime by disrupting the
order of a meeting," Anatolia said.
The massacres of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire is a highly
controversial issue in Turkey and which can arouse strong nationalist
Turkey categorically rejects claims of genocide, saying that 300,000
Armenians and thousands of Turks were killed in what was a civil
strife during World War I when Armenians joined forces with Russian
invaders against the Ottomans.
Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their kinsmen were massacred in
orchestrated killings and have for years sought to have the killings
acknowledged as genocide.
In 2001, France triggered a storm in its relations with Turkey when
its parliament passed a resolution describing the massacres as