21 March 2011
08 Feb 11
* From the conference chaired by Sukru Elekdag - 19/03/2009
There were many occasions when the Turkish Government could have gone to court in the past against the Armenians, but did not choose to do so. However, it is not too late to resort to litigation against some Armenians, Armenian organizations, and/or publications for slander and hate crimes.
I) Occasions missed by Turks to crush Armenian Aggression in Western countries . .
— December 25, 1933: Archbishop Leon Tourian is assassinated by Dashnaks in his church in New York. The majority of US newspapers, even The New York Times, describes Dashnak party as a gang of terrorists, funded by Nazi and Fascist regimes.
Despite the fact that ARF attempted to kill Atatürk several times during the 1920’s, and that several Dashnaks were hanged in Turkey for plotting, Turkish diplomacy did not pursue any prosecution against ARF in the USA, whose offices are located in Boston, MA.
— 1944: non-Dashnak Armenian Americans publish in New York “Dashnak Collaboration with the Nazi Regime”. Turkey does not ask for a court case for Armenian collaboration with the enemy. Similarly, despite the collaboration between ARF and Nazis in France, Turkish embassy does not protest to the French government. The neighborhood of the young Dashnak members in Décines-Charpieu (Lyon’s suburb) is even named “Dro” — the name of the chief of 812th Armenian battalion of Wermacht.
— Spring 1973: Asbarez, the newspaper of ARF in the Western part of the USA, publishes explicit calls to terrorism against the Turks, which could be a reason for a legal case to be opened under US law. Both Dashnak and non-Dashnak associations of California support Gourgen Yanıkian and condone his use of violence. No court case is filed.
— Winter 1976: In Paris, Ara Toranian starts to publish Hay Baykar/Combat Arménien, a weekly publication supporting the ASALA, as well as ASALA-RM, and sometimes Justice Commandos of Armenian Genocide/Armenian Revolutionary Army (terroristic branch of ARF) as well. Toranian receives no punishment until 1988. The French law punishes any incitement to take arms against the State, or against a part of the population, for up to five years, if the provocation is not followed by acts; and by up to 30 years of jail if the provocation is followed by physical acts. Toranian was sued in 1985-1986 for material help to terrorists; he was sentenced in the first instance, but won after an appeal found some benefit of doubt in the case.
— May 27, 1976: a terrorist of JCAG is killed by the accidental explosion of his bomb; the incident happens in the general quarter of ARF in France, rue Bleue (Blue Street) of Paris. French police seizes documents about the assassination of Turkish ambassadors in Paris and Vienna, as well as other documents regarding the future bombings in İstanbul, on May 28 and June 9, 1977. Turkish embassy files no complaint, despite the obvious hate of ARF for the actual French center-right government, hostility which had resulted in the political fragility of Dashnaks at that time.
— 1980-1986: Haïastan, newspaper of the young French Dashnaks, publishes many articles supporting terrorism, calling to take arms, which could be sufficient reason to have the editorial staff to be sentenced to jail. No complaint is filed, even after the departure of pro-Dashnaks from French socialist government in 1984.
— June 1981: Ara Toranian and his friends occupy the Parisian office of Turkish Airlines. No court case was brought up for disturbing the public order.
— January 1982: Stanford J. Shaw’s office is ransacked by fanatic Armenian -American students, encouraged by Richard G. Hovannisian. Because of this violence, as well as repeated assaults, Prof. Shaw is prevented to teach at the University of California, at least until 1986. No court case against the perpetrators and Prof. Hovannisian was sought. No court case, too, was filed against those who sent death threats to Shaw’s family.
—July 2, 1983: The Armenian Weekly, newspaper of ARF in the Eastern part of the USA, publishes an article supporting the terrorists; More articles in the same vein are published in the issues of August 21, 1983, September 17, December 10, December 24; January 14, 1984, January 21 and January 28. No complaint is filed by Turkish diplomats or by Turkish-American associations, despite the conviction of murderer, Hampig Sassounian to life, in 1984.
— 1983: Harry Derderian, leader of the Armenian National Committee (ANC, branch of ARF in the USA) states to a reporter: “If terrorism is a contributing factor in getting people’s attention, I can go along with it.” (quoted in The Washington Times, August 3, 1983). No court case for incitation to murder was filed.
— 1985: Armenian activists fail to obtain “recognition” in the European Parliament. The Turks consider that the game is over, and Armenian activists are the winners in 1987.
— 1990-1994: several French citizens obtain the condemnation of persons who called them “denialists” in Paris and Lyon’s tribunals. Turkish diplomacy does not use these judgments to sue the Armenian activists who regularly call them “denialists”.
— 1993-1995: “Lewis affair”. No Turkish scholar attempts to support Bernard Lewis; Turkish embassy fails to ask Prof. Lewis to appeal his conviction. In two other matters, judged in 2004 and 2005, the Cour de Cassation (French supreme court) decides that the 1382 article of civil code (used against Bernard Lewis) can never be used to restrict the freedom of speech about individuals.
— 1995-1996: “Lowry affair”. Prof. Heath Lowry (Princeton University), victim of defamation and character assassination, receives no support from Turks.
— 1998-2000: “Veinstein affair”. Prof. Gilles Veinstein, elected at the Collège de France, is defamed in several newspapers, receives death threats in his mail box, and in May of 2000, is even assaulted in Aix-en-Provence. Nobody suggests to Prof. Veinstein to sue those who defamed and assaulted him, or at least to file a complaint against unknown persons for death threats; no financial support is proposed. (He has explained to me the difficulty to pay a good lawyer with his salary).
— April 8, 2000. Fanatic young Armenian-Americans attack the “Turkish Night” in University of South California. Policemen arrive and two Armenians are arrested, but the event is canceled. No complaint against the leaders of this anti-Turkish riot (probably ARF) was filed. It was the last of a long series, which started in 1974.
— Spring, Summer and Fall 2000: Huge Armenian demonstration asking “recognition” by the French Senate. There was almost no Turkish reaction.
— 1st January 2001: Following a reform of the French penal code, the decision to liberate persons sentenced to life is no more taken by the Minister of Justice, but by a judge. Immediately, the lawyers of V. Garbidjian, the butcher of Orly, use this reform to obtain the release of their client. Since the Turkish side replies nothing about claims of “genocide” (unlike during the trial), Garbidjian is set free in April of 2001.
— 2002-2003: A hate campaign of both Dashnaks and non-Dashnaks against Samuel Weems, retired U.S. judge and author of “Armenia. The Secrets of a ChristianTerrorist State”. The attacks include death threats and defamation. No Turkish support or official complaint pursues.
— 2003: former ASALA spokesman Ara Toranian is elected president of Coordination, Council of French Armenian Associations. No letters of complaint are sent to politicians who welcome Mr. Toranian.
— 2007: Ara Toranian publishes on his Web site an article presenting Monte Melkonian as a “national hero”. (Melkonian, leader of ASALA until 1983, then of ASALA-RM, was sentenced by Paris tribunal to 4 years of jail for terroristic activities, including illegal storing of weapons and explosives, and served more than three years before to be expelled from French territory.) No reaction.
— April 24, 2009: Ara Toranian calls his “compatriots” to “return to the activism of 1975-1980 years”. No reaction.
— November 2009: Ara Toranian publishes in his newspaper an article of Monte Melkonian, and at least one sentence could have been sufficient to sue him in court for offense to a judgment. Indeed, Mr. Toranian wrote that Melkonian “stopped terrorism” in 1983: Melkonian was sentenced for terroristic activities which happened in 1983-1985. However, no complaint is filed. It is now too late to sue him.
II) The lessons of Some Trials in Western Countries:
A) Trials of Armenian terrorists in Switzerland and in France, during the 1980’s
— The Mardiros Jamgotchian trial (1981)
On June 9, 1981, Mardiros Jamgotchian, an ASALA terrorist, assassinates Mehmet Savaş Yergüz, secretary of Turkish general consul in Geneva. Mardiros Jamgotchian is arrested by Swiss police and brought to court at the end of 1981.
Mardiros Jamgotchian’s defense uses mainly the “genocide” claims as an excuse for the crime. Among the witnesses testifying for the terrorist, there are the “historians” Jean-Marie Carzou (who called a return of Armenian terrorism in a speech of 1972) and Yves Ternon (from 1974 to 2008, a columnist in Haratch, a daily edited by the sympathizers of ARF in Paris). Turkey sends no scholars to challenge the lies of these “scholars”, despite the fact that Türkkaya Ataöv, Salâhi R. Sonyel, Bilâl Şimşir and Esat Uras had already published serious studies on the Armenian issue, and despite the first scholarly symposium organized in Turkey about Armenian issue, ironically in June 1981. Gwynne Dyer, Bernard Lewis and Stanford J. Shaw are not solicited.
Similarly, nobody recalls that one of the lawyers of the ASALA terrorist, Patrick Devedjian, was a member of a far- right group in the 1960′s. This group was vehemently racist, anti-Semitic, and used physical violence; It was outlawed by the French government in the fall of 1968, after a bombing was perpetrated by these fanatics. (Until 2006, Mr. Devedjian refused to express any regret for his past in the violent far right movement.)
As a result of Turkish passivity, Mardiros Jamgotchian was sentenced to only 15 years of jail (the prosecutor had asked for a life sentence), and he was released as early as 1991.
— The Max Hraïr Kilndjian trial (1982)
In February 1980, the Turkish ambassador in Switzerland was the victim of an attempted murder by JCAG. Suspected to be the criminal, because several testimonies, French Dashnak Max Hraïr Kilndjian was arrested and indicted by French authorities. The investigation and the case lasted two years: 1980-1982. Except for a few statements, Turkey showed little reaction. The witnesses of the incident were threatened to death, and nobody, not even MİT, proposed to protect them from Geneva to Aix-en-Provence, where Max Hraïr Kilndjian is prosecuted and tried. As a result, only one witness had the courage to appear in front of the court in 1982. Consequently, Max Hraïr Kildjian’s lawyers were successful in having their client not sentenced for attempt of murder, but only as an accessory in the crime, citing lack of evidence.
Secondly, like during the Jamgotchian trial, several self-proclaimed “scholars” deceive a tribunal completely ignorant of Ottoman history. (In the beginning of the trial, the president asked: “Who is Talat Pasha?”) Turkish Government paid a well-known and efficient lawyer from Marseille, but he was alone against the witnesses of defense and the extremely aggressive crowd of Dashnaks within the tribunal, as well as outside the building.
As a result, Max Hraïr Kilndjian is sentenced to two years of jail, and obtains freedom, since he had spent already this time in jail before the trial.
— The trial of attack against Paris Consulate General 1984)
Paris Consulate General of Turkey is attacked by four terrorists of ASALA in September 1981. The Turkish Consul General is seriously wounded and a guard killed. The trial was started in 1984, i.e. after the Orly attack, and at a time when the right-wing opposition criticized the socialist government about the question of terrorism; Thus, the political atmosphere was less in favor of Armenian nationalists and could become in favor of Turks.
This time, Turkey sent Prof. Türkkaya Ataöv and a delegate of Armenian patriarchate of İstanbul; but Armenian nationalists sent many more witnesses, including Jean-Marie Carzou and Yves Ternon, whose services were already used for the Jamgotchian and Kilndjian trials. So, the Turks were not neglectful, but did not show an appropriate level of response. For example, nobody asked to Dr. Paul B. Henze, Dr. Justin McCarthy and Prof. Michael M. Gunter to at least make a written statement.
As a result, the four terrorists were sentenced to seven years of jail, a sentence considered too long by ASALA’s supporters and by Dashnaks, but clearly less than given in several other cases of assaults with death.
— The Orly trial and other court cases of 1985:
This time, the Turkish side was very well organized, sending several witnesses, including Prof. Türkkaya Ataöv and Prof. Mumtaz Soysal. The plaintiffs had three lawyers: two for arguing about the attack itself, and one, the famous Jean Loyrette (who made his firm the best in France), specifically to challenge “genocide” claims.
The lawyers of defense, Jacques Vergès and Patrick Devedjian, did not present the testimonies of Mr. Carzou or Mr. Ternon this time, afraid to seem supporting the worst kind of terrorism.
However, on a purely legal level, the defense had some advantage. Indeed, in 1985 (it changed as early as 1986), French law did not authorize release of the methods of investigation used against terrorists. So, the Direction de la surveillance du territoire (French counter-intelligence and counter-terrorist police service) refrained from exposing all the material in the legal file, being afraid that other terrorists, including members of ASALA, could use such information to prepare future attacks with more safety. As a result, the principal perpetrator of attack, V. Garbidjian, was tried and sentenced as an accessory, not as an assassin (see, for example, the testimony of Gilles Ménage, chief of staff of President François Mitterrand, in the documentary about Jacques Vergès, Advocate of Terror, by Barbet Schröder, 2007; only the French original version is available in DVD).
So, if V. Garbidjian was sentenced to life, it was not only because the majority of the victims killed were non-Turks, but also because the plaintiffs were able to challenge efficiently the “genocide” claims.
Similarly, Jean Loyrette obtained during other trials organized in 1985-1986, that several members of Armenian National Movement (political branch of ASALA until 1983, of ASALA-RM after that date) be sentenced to two to four years of jail for illegal storing of explosives. In a comparable case in Switzerland, 1981, two ASALA terrorists were sentenced to only eighteen months of suspended jail, and immediately released after the trial, to the satisfaction of the terrorists. This time, however, fanatics were very unhappy.
B) Court cases in Switzerland, USA and France during the 2000’s
— The Perinçek trial
Doğu Perinçek wanted to be judged under the regime of the Swiss law that prohibits the challenge of the “Armenian genocide” claims. in some circumstances (and in some circumstances only: despite demands of Armenian nationalists, Prof. Norman Stone was never sued because his article was published in a German-speaking Swiss newspaper). Mr. Perinçek chooses a very good Swiss lawyer, but he leaves him completely alone until a few days before the trial. He gives the lawyer 90 kg of documents, written in Russian. Some Swiss Turks make the heroic effort to translate some of these documents, and discover that they are irrelevant to the Armenian issue.
As a result, Doğu Perinçek is sentenced.
— Jean Schmidt vs David Krikorian
During the elections for US Congress of 2008, the staff of David Krikorian (local leader of ARF, actually independent candidate of the far right, now a Democrat!) uses defamatory posters against Jean Schmidt, republican MP who attempted to be reelected (and was, finally). So, Ms. Schmidt sues Mr. Krikorian, thanks to her personal lawyer as well as to the Turkish American Legal Defense Fund (TALDF), represented for this case by Bruce Fein, international lawyer, specialist of penal law.
Armenian side — this time united, since both Dashnak and non-Dashnak press supported Mr. Krikorian — makes huge efforts, but Mr. Fein stresses, with precise arguments, not only about the defamation itself, but also that there is a scholarly debate about “genocide” allegations.
As a result, electoral commission of Ohio accepted the majority of Ms. Schmidt’s complaints, and declared Mr. Krikorian guilty. We are still waiting to know if Ms. Schmidt will also sue in a civil tribunal.
We also have to wait for the results of the court case of Prof. Guenter Lewy (defended by TALDF) against the Southern Poverty Law Center, but it looks promising.
— The Lyon’s affairs
At the beginning of 2008, before the municipal elections in March, Sırma Oran-Martz, daughter of Baskın Oran, a naturalized French citizen, is presented as a candidate for the Green Party as a candidate for mayor of Villeurbanne (principal town of Lyon’s suburb, with an important Armenian community, entirely led by ARF). Ms. Oran-Martz is pressured to “recognize the genocide”, with increasingly humiliating conditions, and finally renounces her candidacy.
The author of this paper publishes an article on the Web, commenting on the incident, and focusing on the abusive use of the word “denialist” and on the crimes of ARF, from 1890’s to current times. The article is signed, cautiously, only by my initials, . Two days after the publication, my name is revealed on the main French-Armenian Web forum, and I am threatened by death. After a threat by me to file a complaint against him, the majority of messages concerning me are deleted by Ara Toranian, moderator-in-chief of this forum. Following this incident, there is a meeting in Villeurbanne, with Movsès Nissanian, municipal counselor of Villeurbanne and a member of ARF. Mr. Nissanian insults me, saying that I am like “those who sent Jews to Auschwitz”. His words are recorded by the husband of Ms. Oran-Martz, Jean-Patrick Martz.
As a result, two court cases are filed, with the same lawyer, in front of exactly the same Lyon’s tribunal, but with completely different strategies. The legal basis of Sırma Oran’s case against the mayor of Villeurbanne is very slim. The legal basis of my court case against Mr. Nissanian is so strong that even his lawyer does not contest the legal qualification. Despite my repeated suggestions, Ms. Oran refuses absolutely to challenge “genocide” claims. In my court case, when I discover that Mr. Nissanian’s lawyer produced written conclusions of 18 pages focused on “genocide” allegations, I and my lawyer ask, with success, the postponing of the trial; it is postponed from November 3, 2009, to January 5, 2010. During this time, I prepare a text which my lawyer transforms into two appendixes for his arguments: one about ARF (terroristic activities of 1890-1914; terroristic activities of interwar; collaboration with Nazism; terroristic activities of 1975-1993); and one about “genocide claims”, responding to every argument of Mr. Nissanian. I also give my lawyer many articles of the French Dashnak press that supports terrorism.
In addition to these court cases, I also filed a complaint for defamation in the police station of my Parisian district in October 2008, for defamation on the forum of armenews.com As a result of my complaint, Mr. Toranian destroyed his free-access forum entirely, less than seven hours after my complaint.
Not surprisingly, the results are very different. The mayor of Villeurbanne is acquitted on January 5, 2010, and Ms. Oran is sentenced to pay him 1,500 € as a part of his court costs, and 1,500 € as damages for abusive procedure. In the same afternoon, the same tribunal judged Maxime Gauin vs. Movsès Nissanian case. About a half-hour later, the same president who pronounced a severe verdict against Ms. Oran says, “The tribunal does not have to decide between historical thesis.” We have to wait for the verdict on April 27, but one can already notice that Mr. Nissanian has lost his arrogance during the tribunal. He is so afraid to be severely sentenced that he said, in the beginning: “I regret to have used such words”; and in the end: “I reprove these acts of terrorism”.
Another big difference is perceptible in the conditions of the trials. There were many Dashnaks present at both trials. On November 3 (Oran-Martz vs. Bret), they are extremely aggressive and arrogant, and, despite the fact that I was a simple spectator, I am upset by a young Dashnak who was completely hateful. On January 5, there were no young Dashnaks, only old Armenians, who were quiet and showed polite faces. I am able to praise a study of Prof. Yusuf Halaçoğlu and to demonstrate the involvement of ARF leadership in terrorism without provoking a single scream in the room.
Why did this difference exist? Surely not because of a sudden indulgence of Dashnaks for me. More pragmatically, because I wrote a right of reply to Dashnak site (published before the trial), explaining that I would sue anybody who would attack me, and that Mr. Nissanian would be the first to be punished in case of incidents —the nationalist Armenian groups who support him would be next in line.
I sent a last warning one day before the trial. On January 4, Mr. Toranian defamed me on his Web site. I immediately sent an e-mail to him, threatening to sue him, too. One half-hour later, Mr. Toranian answered that to prevent any misunderstanding, he was deleting his article — and he kept his promise.
My court case against Mr. Nissanian, and even the court case of Ms. Oran, had the advantage of showing that the Armenian nationalists of France should refrain from using as an ultimate argument the “recognition” law of January 2001. Indeed, this law is unconstitutional (French Constitution forbids the declarative laws), and a reform of Constitution, voted in 2008, authorizes any person involved in a court case, as plaintiff or as a defendant, to argue of the unconstitutionality of a law if the opposite side uses this law as a main argument.
Even if Mr. Nissanian is severely sentenced and does not appeal such a decision, I have some projects to continue on purely legal ways. Mr. Nissanian is just a municipal counselor, and it would be very unjust that he should remain a long time the single Armenian nationalist of French sued for hate speech.
Both trials of 1980’s and 2000’s demonstrate that court cases are needed, and they are an efficient way to crush Armenian fanatical nationalism, if, and only if:
— An appropriate lawyer is chosen;
— His client is not afraid to challenge “genocide” claims, with scholarly arguments expressed politely submitted, and if he is not afraid to file new complaints in case of new attacks;
— The legal basis is strong.
Armenian nationalism cannot exist without violating the laws of democratic countries, especially the law forbidding defamation. Armenian nationalists understand only the politics of power. As a democratic country herself, Turkey cannot use the methods of rogues — and would probably not want to do it. But Turks should use the excellent means offered by law without hesitation.