A lawmaker from Turkey’s main opposition party has filed a criminal complaint against US President Joe Biden for recognizing the mass killings of Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire as genocide.
Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Mahmut Tanal filed the complaint with the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, accusing Biden of committing acts of hatred and discrimination against the Turkish nation.
On April 24 Biden became the first US leader to use the term genocide in an annual message on the anniversary of the 1915-1916 massacres.
In his petition, Tanal described Biden as a president “running after the Armenian lobby and embracing populism” while accusing him of putting blame on the Turkish nation with “baseless statements” that lack historical and legal grounds.
“We remember the lives of all those who died in the Ottoman-era Armenian genocide and recommit ourselves to preventing such an atrocity from ever again occurring,” Biden said in a statement.
“We affirm the history. We do this not to cast blame but to ensure that what happened is never repeated.”
According to Tanal, April 24 does not mark the anniversary of the forced deportation of the Armenians under Ottoman rule but is the date when the rulers of the Ottoman Empire decided to arrest leaders of Armenian groups revolting against the state. He said only the Armenians revolting against the state were arrested as a security measure and that genocide was out of the question.
In his petition the lawmaker also said although Biden committed the crime of “hatred and discrimination” in another country, he can be tried in Turkey in absentia under Article 8 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).
The Armenians — supported by historians and scholars — say 1.5 million of their people died in a genocide committed under the Ottoman Empire during World War I.
Ankara accepts that both Armenians and Turks died in huge numbers as Ottoman forces fought czarist Russia.
But Turkey vehemently denies a deliberate policy of genocide and notes that the term had not been legally defined at the time.
All the parties in the Turkish Parliament, except pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), deny the Armenian genocide and have reacted angrily to the US in the wake of its recognition of the massacre as genocide.