On the 24th January 2013, a Penal Court in Paris judged Laurent Leylekian, former editor of “France-Armenie”, and former Executive Director of the European-Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy, for an op-ed written on the then-available website of this magazine entitled “Martz Attaque !”. The pun of this title was playing with the spouse name of the plaintiff Sirma Oran-Martz, a Turkish-originated lady who once aimed at playing a political role as a municipal counsellor in Villeurbanne, a large city close to Lyon in France.
The op-ed of Laurent Leylekian heavily referred to some classical sci-fi motion pictures such as “Mars Attacks”, “E.T.”, “the Gremlins”, “the Empire strikes back” or “War of the Worlds” to denounce the attempt made by notorious genocide deniers to impose their denialist convictions on the French political scene.
The trial turned to a fiasco for Sirma Oran-Martz. After having recalled the context in which this op-ed was written, The Chairman of the Court asked Laurent Leylekian to provide some explanations. The defendant explained that this article just denounced proved facts such as the participation of Oran-Martz to a mass protest aiming at denying the Armenian Genocide and the judgement of a previous case lost by Mrs Oran against Jean-Paul Bret, the Mayor of Villeurbanne, a city near Lyon,. In this previous verdict, the Court mentioned a “powerful, wicked and sophisticated form of denial”, a term recalled by Leylekian’s op-ed.
Laurent Leylekian also claimed that the other parts of the article were just personal and critical opinions based on the freedom of speech, so that the allegation of defamation claimed by Oran-Martz was mainly void. He concluded saying that the Genocide deniers were just attempting to shift the battle they lost on the political arena to the judicial scene .
Mr Leylekian called 3 witnesses Mr François Rochebloine, MP, and author of the text of recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the French National Assembly in 2001, Mr Yves Ternon, a renowned French expert on Genocide and Denial, and Mrs Hilda Tchoboian, the former chairwoman of the European-Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy and well-known political leader in Lyon’s area. Acting as a character witness, Mr Rochebloine testified that Mr Leylekian was absolutely not the violent and aggressive character described by the plaintiff but that he is on a contrary a thoughtful and calm person.
Mr Ternon explained what was the Armenian Genocide and the wicked ways used to deny it such as pointless and delusive “dialogues” established to indefinitely postpone any acknowledgment. He especially confirmed that the term “negationnist” (denialist) are applied by scholars to those who deny the Armenian Genocide as for the Holocaust. This point was contested by the plaintiff.
Last, Mrs Tchoboian confirmed the actuality of an assertion written by Mr Leylekian in his column, i.e. that Mrs Oran-Martz challenged her just after the Bret’s trial saying: “it’s only the first round”, hence disclosing her long-term strategy.
Compared to the very clear, forceful and convincing positions of the defendant, plaintiff’s arguments appeared to be blurred, evasive and often off-topic. For instance, Mrs Oran-Martz was clearly unable to say if – yes or no – she acknowledges the Armenian Genocide, why she took part to the Grey-wolves mass protest or why she signed up a petition against the penalization of genocides’ denial in France in 2006. She lengthily referred to Jean-Paul Bret’s trial to allege discrimination against Turks in France, reproaching the numerous memorials for the Armenian Genocide in Lyon area or the wording on the main memorial in Lyon mentioning the “Young Turk” regime; many recriminations that are irrelevant to a penal court and that were anyway not connected to Mr Leylekian.
She also strongly irritated the chairman of the Court by her elusive positions on the Armenian Genocide or her global lack of clarity. For instance, she was sermonized by the chairman when she alleged to behave some evidences that she forgot to bring, when she said that she was “tired” or when she was so confused that she said that “it is not up to the Parliament to make the law”.
Her witnesses did not bear any clarification: Mr Murat Erpuyan, the chairman of Ataturquie association insisted on the secular nature of the Turkish State to assert that the 2005 referendum in France [on the EU constitution] and its failure triggered a communitization of the young Turks living in France.
Mr Maxime Gauin, a notorious genocide denier working in Ankara in Sedat Laçiner’s think tank made a lengthy and obscure speech to deny the Armenian Genocide. He mainly succeeded to give evidence of some mental disturbance .
Mr Martz – Mrs Oran-Martz husband – was perhaps the most sincere and pathetic when he testified that he didn’t recognize his spouse in the villain portrayed by Mr Leylekian’s op-ed. He added however some confusion by contradicting his spouse saying she “privately” recognized the Armenian Genocide, and even did it “without condition”.
Last, Mr Mascarou, a retired teacher of french literature who once knew Mrs Oran-Martz in Ankara reproached to Mrs Leylekian that he was “not an historian and not a good polemicist”, two off-topic points.
At the end, and despite the grotesque efforts made by Mrs Oran-Martz lawyer to draw some links between Mr Leylekian, Mrs Tchoboian and some terrorists organizations, the public prosecutor mainly followed the defendant position : Among the five incriminated affirmation in the op-ed, three are general opinions that are not connected to Mrs Oran-Martz, one just use the Oran-Martz case to draw a more global perspective and one actually relates to Mrs Oran-Martz. However, it is mainly based on proved facts and constitutes a “political dispute”, the jurisprudence from the European Court of Human Rights granted an extended freedom of speech. Hence, the public prosecutor didn’t require any prosecution.
The Court will deliver its judgment on 28 February 2013.