Row Erupts In Switzerland Over Meeting With Turkish Justice Minister

ROW ERUPTS IN SWITZERLAND OVER MEETING WITH TURKISH JUSTICE MINISTER

Agence France Presse — English
March 5, 2007 Monday 11:40 AM GMT

A row erupted in Switzerland on Monday after Turkey’s justice minister
and his Swiss counterpart met just days before a leading Turkish
militant goes on trial here charged with denial of genocide.

Swiss Justice Minister Christoph Blocher met his Turkish colleague
Cemil Cicek in Switzerland on Friday and Saturday following a Swiss
invitation.

"It’s a scandal," Ueli Leuenberger, a Green Party parliamentarian told
the Swiss daily Tages-Anzeiger, while a Christian Democrat counterpart
on the Swiss-Armenia parliamentary group, Dominique de Buman, dubbed
the visit a "provocation".

The meeting occurred just a day before Dogu Perincek, head of the
Turkish Workers’ Party, flew into Switzerland to faces charges under
Swiss law after he called the "genocide" of Armenians in 1915 an
"international lie" during Turkish rallies in the city of Lausanne
two years ago.

Turkey fiercely rejects the label to describe the World War I massacres
of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire.

However, the Swiss lower house of parliament recognised the massacre
as genocide in December 2003 and the issue has sporadically soured
Turkish-Swiss relations.

The meeting between Cicek and Blocher has taken on added resonance
because of the right-wing Swiss minister’s controversial comments on
anti-racism laws during a visit to Turkey last October.

He suggested that the Swiss law, which refers to "grossly minimising
or justifying genocide," should be changed. Perincek is facing charges
under that law.

Blocher’s stance was also at odds with cabinet colleagues in the
four-party government and earned an informal rebuke from legal circles.

The Swiss justice ministry said in a statement that Blocher had
extended the invitation to Cicek in October, to help "consolidate
bilateral relations, which were particularly intense during the first
half of the 20th century."

Lausanne, where Perincek held his rally, was also the site of the
international conference and treaty signed in 1923 which sealed the
break-up of the Ottoman Empire.

The two-day meeting this weekend officially covered the integration
of young Turkish immigrants in Switzerland, terrorism, and judicial
assistance.

Ministry spokesman Livio Zanolari told AFP that Perincek’s trial
"was not a subject of discussion," and emphasised the separation of
powers between the government and the Swiss judiciary.

Swiss newspapers on Monday criticised the timing of the meeting.

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