YEREVAN -- A key Armenian parliamentary committee has rejected a proposal by the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) to criminalize public statements denying that the massacres of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey nearly 100 years ago constituted genocide, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.
Armenian law already carries heavy fines and up to four years' imprisonment for public denial of genocides and "other crimes against humanity."
An amendment to the law recommended by Dashnaktsutyun last month would extend the maximum punishment to five years and apply it to anyone "denying, playing down, approving, or justifying the genocide of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey and western Armenia."
Dashnaktsutyun leaders acknowledge that the bill is directly connected with the October 10 agreements signed by Armenia and Turkey aimed at normalizing relations, which have been strongly condemned by Dashnaktsutyun.
The party said the proposal to criminalize genocide denials is specifically directed against a Turkish-Armenian subcommission of historians envisaged in one of the agreements.
In an opinion sent to the parliamentary Legal Affairs Committee this week, the Justice Ministry objected to the Dashnaktsutyun bill and urged the committee to uphold the existing law relating to genocide denial.