Turkish nationalist committee barred from entering Athens
ANKARAThe Talat Paşa Committee, a Turkish nationalist organization aiming to counter recognition of the 1915 events as the "Armenian genocide," has been refused entry to Athens, where it had gone to issue a statement in protest at a recently approved Greek bill.
The members of the committee left for Athens on Jan. 9 with the aim of making a statement in front of the Greek Parliament, but returned by the Greek authorities.
The committee wanted to protest and demand the withdrawal of a controversial bill approved by Greece’s parliament in September that stiffens penalties for racially motivated crime and criminalizes the denial of genocide and war crimes.
The delegation of 13 people was intercepted by police at the airport and prevented from entering the city for “security reasons.” They were sent back to Turkey on the next flight.
Speaking to reporters in a news conference, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said anyone must be able to hold peaceful demonstrations, while refuting allegations that Ankara had tried to block the committee’s visit to Greece.
Çavuşoğlu also commented on a European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) case between Switzerland and Turkey’s Workers’ Party (İP) Chairman Doğu Perinçek.
He said he would prefer Perinçek, who is banned from going abroad in relation to an ongoing coup case, to be able to attend an ECHR appeal hearing on an Armenian genocide denial-related case.
Çavuşoğlu said he had expressed the same view in a phone conversation with Perinçek, but noted that the local court in Turkey would make the final decision.
Perinçek was found guilty by a Swiss court on March 9, 2007, after his participation in a number of conferences in Switzerland in 2005, during which he publicly denied that the Ottoman Empire had perpetrated the crime of genocide against the Armenian people.
Following the Swiss court’s decision, Perinçek appealed to the ECHR in 2008 in Strasbourg, arguing for “freedom of expression.”
However, Perinçek is currently prevented from leaving Turkey after being jailed in connection with the “Ergenekon” coup plot case.
“The process is in the [Turkish] Supreme Court’s hands now,” Çavuşoğlu said.
The foreign minister also stressed that Turkey would “defend its thesis in the best way possible” in the upcoming months.