ZURICH (Reuters) – Swiss prosecutors will drop a criminal probe against Turkey’s EU affairs minister, instigated after he denied Ottoman Turks committed genocide against Armenians nearly 100 years ago, because he is protected by diplomatic immunity.
Zurich prosecutors began investigating minister Egemen Bagis after comments he made at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, and also at a concert in Zurich. Swiss anti-racism legislation outlaws genocide denial.
Turkey summoned the Swiss ambassador in Ankara to complain after the investigation was launched.
“After consulting with the Swiss foreign ministry, the prosecutor has concluded that criminal charges against Egemen Bagis cannot be pursued because, as a Turkish EU minister, he enjoyed immunity during his entire stay in Switzerland,” the prosecutor said in a statement on Monday.
Backed by many historians and foreign parliaments, Armenia says about 1.5 million Christian Armenians were killed in what is now eastern Turkey during World War One in a deliberate policy of genocide ordered by the Ottoman government.
The Ottoman empire was dissolved at the end of the war, but successive Turkish governments and the vast majority of Turks believe the charge of genocide is an insult to their nation. Ankara argues there was heavy loss of life on both sides during fighting in the region.
Swiss authorities have taken legal action against several people who have denied the Armenian genocide. The most prominent case is the conviction of Turkish politician Dogu Perincek, who was fined 3,000 Swiss francs in 2007.
In January, the French Senate approved similar legislation, prompting an angry response from Turkey. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan termed the legislation “discriminatory and racist”.