The European Court of Human Rights in 2013 dismissed Swiss court rulings that Dogu Perinçek, chairman of the Turkish Workers’ Party, was guilty of racial discrimination by making such remarks.
The court found that decisions against Perincek by courts in Switzerland violated his freedom of expression, as defined by the European Convention on Human Rights.
In March last year, Bern requested that the case be referred to the human rights court’s Grand Chamber, which on June 2 agreed to rehear the case.
Perinçek participated in various Swiss conferences in May, July and September 2005 during which he “publicly denied that the Ottoman Empire had perpetrated the crime of genocide against the Armenian people in 1915.”
The Switzerland-Armenia association subsequently filed a criminal complaint against him on July 15th 2005.
The Lausanne police court found Perinçek guilty of racial discrimination under the Swiss criminal code.
The Vaud cantonal court dismissed an appeal lodged by the Turk, stating that the Armenian genocide was a “proven historical fact” like the Jewish genoicde.
Switzerland’s supreme court rejected a further appeal in a December 12th 2007 decision.
But the European human rights court, by a vote of five to two, accepted Perinçek’s argument that the “breach” of his freedom of expression was “not necessary in a democratic society”.
The issue is a sensitive one, given that Armenians are marking the 100th anniversary of the genocide this year.
The hearing of the Strasbourg court will deal with the question of the limits of freedom of expression, an issue that has come into focus with the recent deadly terror attacks of staff at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
While the Grand Chamber was scheduled to hear the case on Wednesday afternoon, a ruling will not be made until later.