French constitutional authority annuls ‘Armenian genocide’ legislation
France’s Constitutional Council on Tuesday overturned a controversial law that would have criminalized denying that 1.5 million Armenians perished in a systematic genocide campaign during the Ottoman Empire, a move Turkey gladly welcomed.
The 11-member Constitutional Council began to examine the legality of the legislation late last month after some 77 senators from across the political divide appealed to the council. Another 65 lawmakers France’s lower house, the National Assembly, endorsed the appeal.
In a statement, the council explained its ruling -- that the law was contradictory to the principles of freedom of expression enshrined in France’s founding documents.
The council said it was possible to put legal limits on freedom of expression to protect privacy and public order. However, any such law would have to be “necessary, adapted and proportional” to the desired effect, while having the potential for creating a legal precedent.
Shortly after the ruling was announced, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said the Cabinet would meet to consider whether to restart economic, political and military contacts with France that were frozen after the French parliament passed the law on Jan. 23. “The verdict is positive. I hope that everyone learns the necessary lessons from this,” Davutoğlu told reporters.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry also released a statement on Tuesday night, saying the law was a one-sided initiative aiming to prohibit any challenge to views concerning “a painful period in Turkish and Armenian common history.” The statement added that Turkey is glad to note that “a grave error” was corrected by the most competent judicial authority in France.
The statement added that Turkey is glad to note that “a grave error” was corrected by the most competent judicial authority in France. It added that it is preferable that on controversial historical issues third countries adopt an impartial approach encouraging dialogue and resolution between the concerned parties, rather than make imprudent and prejudicial interventions.
Feb. 25, Saturday
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, meeting with Libya’s interim prime minister Abdel-Rahim al-Keeb in İstanbul, said Turkey would continue to extend support to Libya. “We have given full support to the Libyan transition process so far, and we will continue our support to the country in the best way we can. I believe Libya will have transparent and fair elections, as it is scheduled to,” Erdoğan stated, referring to Libya’s upcoming elections, in June, during a joint press conference with al-Keeb.
Feb. 26, Sunday
The main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) 16th party congress, overshadowed by legal debates over whether or not the party administration had managed to secure enough delegate support to convene the meeting, was held. It had been a matter of debate whether the current CHP leadership was going to be able to meet the quorum of delegates required to convene a congress, as the anti-administration camp had put pressure on party delegates to boycott the gathering. Tensions ran high as CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu began his speech. As one of Kılıçdaroğlu’s staunch opponents, Mersin deputy İsa Gök, was trying to enter the hall, Kılıçdaroğlu’s supporters booed him and prevented him from getting in the door.
Prosecutors have identified correspondence between a former general and a former Higher Education Board (YÖK) president among documents that are believed to be related to the Feb. 28, 1997 unarmed military intervention that overthrew the coalition government of the time. Discoveries included documents relating to the West Study Group (BÇG), which was established by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) to carry on the fight against reactionaryism and contained records of the ideological and religious background of academics and universities, as well as correspondence between former Gen. Çevik Bir -- who played a major role in the Feb. 28 coup -- and former YÖK President Kemal Gürüz.
The Turkish wing of the UK aid group Doctors Worldwide sent a surgical mission to Israeli-blockaded Gaza to distribute medical supplies and perform free surgeries for Gazans in need.
Feb. 27, Monday
Turkey’s National Security Council (MGK) said in a statement it released following a five-hour meeting that it is important to protect the Syrian people and deliver humanitarian aid in the face of increasingly growing violence and bloodshed in its southern neighbor, calling on the international community not to remain indifferent to what it said is a “mass slaughter” in Syria.
Parliament’s Constitutional Reconciliation Commission has referred to a sub-commission a bill that aims to allow Turks who give up their citizenship to vote in upcoming elections. The bill, which introduces an amendment to the elections and electoral registries law and several other laws, will both regulate how Turkish citizens living in foreign countries can cast their votes and addresses challenges with the Blue Card, which functions as a quasi-passport for those who have renounced their Turkish citizenship to gain citizenship in another country.
Former Beşiktaş Chairman Yıldırım Demirören was elected the new president of the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) at Monday’s extraordinary general assembly in Ankara amidst a match-fixing scandal that plunged Turkish football into chaos last summer. He was the only candidate to run for the post after others had withdrawn their candidacies.
An İstanbul court ruled to order the police department to bring retired Gen. Yaşar Büyükanıt, a former chief of General Staff, to the court by force in order for him to give testimony as a witness in a trial concerning a plot to overthrow the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government.
According to documents discovered during investigations into the terrorist Kurdish Communities Union (KCK) -- a political umbrella organization that includes the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorist organization -- it was revealed that the KCK keeps tabs on Kurds and submits their details to the PKK, who assassinates them if deemed necessary.
A group of Turkish Circassians, who were disillusioned with the outcome of the government’s “Kurdish initiative,” a project to give more cultural rights to the Kurdish minority, set up their own “workshop” to discuss what could be called Turkey’s Circassian question. The workshop, a series of lectures and speeches by participants that involved high-profile academics and journalists, was organized by the Circassian Rights Initiative (ÇHİ), whose spokesperson Kenan Kaplan says was founded to make Circassians and their demands more visible in society.
Feb. 28, Tuesday
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said nobody should have any doubt that Turkey is confronting the Feb. 28, 1997 military intervention, generally known as the postmodern coup. “Nobody should be concerned. This nation is confronting Feb. 28, and it will continue to do so. A full account of the price the events of Feb. 28 made this country, this nation, our democracy and our economy pay is being made, and it will continue to be made,” Erdoğan said on the 15th anniversary of the 1997 intervention.
A recent legislative change enabling newspapers run by Turkey’s non-Muslim minority groups, which fall under the category of minority according to a legal definition in the Lausanne Treaty of 1924, to publish official notices went into effect. Minority newspapers will still have to apply in writing to be able to publish official announcements in their newspapers.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas arrived in Ankara for diplomatic talks with top Turkish officials. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu hosted a dinner in honor of Abbas, who is also the leader of the Palestinian Fatah party. Abbas and Davutoğlu exchanged views on the bilateral relations between Turkey and the Palestinian administration, the Middle East peace process and the internal reconciliation process between the Palestinian political groups Hamas and Fatah.
As the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks on Monday began publishing more than 5 million emails from a US-based global security analysis company, Stratfor, emails emerged in regards to Turkey, Israel and the United States. Stratfor has been likened to a shadow CIA by the Turkish and international media. An email by Stratfor Chief Executive George Friedman talks about a meeting between former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. According to the email, Erdoğan told Kissinger that at some point, he will burn bridges with Israel and opt for a closer relationship with the Islamic world. Kissinger’s reaction, as indicated in Friedman’s email, was that “Erdoğan intends to be the leader of the Islamic world.” Friedman also wrote in the same email that Turkey may not get along well with Israel and the United States and that an attack by Israel on Iran would be a good opportunity for Erdoğan.
Feb. 29, Wednesday
The specially authorized prosecutors conducting an investigation into the KCK, a terror network that includes the PKK as well as many other affiliated armed and unarmed groups, are working to identify the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) operatives who infiltrated the KCK, the Vatan daily claimed. The relationship between the KCK and MİT came under the spotlight two weeks ago when a prosecutor attempted to summon Hakan Fidan, the undersecretary of MİT, and four other MİT officials as suspects in the investigation. The prosecutors claim MİT agents inside the KCK often collaborated in deadly terror crimes.
After almost four years, the Supreme Court of Appeals on Wednesday upheld a lower court’s decision to jail Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputy Kemal Aktaş for two years and one month. Aktaş, a BDP deputy from Van, was arrested in 2008 as part of an investigation into the terrorist KCK, an umbrella political organization for the PKK. On March 6, 2008, the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court sentenced him to two years, one month in prison on grounds that he was spreading propaganda for the PKK during Nevruz festivities in the Silopi district of Şırnak province on March 21, 2006.
March 1, Thursday
A remote-detonated bomb mounted on a parked motorcycle exploded as a police minibus passed near the İstanbul headquarters of Turkey’s ruling AK Party and an office of the Independent Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association (MÜSİAD), injuring 10 police officers and a civilian.
A radar site based in Malatya’s Kürecik, which is part of a NATO early-warning radar system, was formally declared operational, and US soldiers have been deployed there since the beginning of 2012, international media sources reported.
A statement by jailed terrorist PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan that was only recently made public has revealed he knew about the internal turmoil within the organization and that 19 injured PKK members were brutally murdered in a cave in order to prevent them from being captured alive.
March 2, Friday
The Supreme Court of Appeals accepted an indictment concerning a third former army commander and a prosecutor, who is currently a CHP deputy, accusing the two men of founding and running a terrorist group. In addition to being charged with membership in the Ergenekon terrorist organization, the suspects face charges of forgery of official documents, threatening and illegally storing personal data.
In a historic hearing on Friday, three former senior generals, including former Chief of General Staff retired Gen. Yaşar Büyükanıt, testified at a trial regarding an alleged plot called Sledgehammer to overthrow the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government whose content was shared at a military seminar in 2003, saying they had no idea that the content of the seminar documents amounted to a coup d’état plot. Retired Gen. Büyükanıt, who was the deputy chief of the General Staff at the time, testified as a witness in the 81st session of the trial, being heard by the İstanbul 10th High Criminal Court. Friday saw the first time a force commander on active duty testified at a court, while Gendarmerie General Commander Gen. Bekir Kalyoncu also spoke at Friday’s session. There are 220 suspects who are on trial in the Sledgehammer trial.