EAFJD President: Chants Like ‘Karabagh Will Be the Grave of the Armenians’ Have No Place in the Netherlands, in Europe
ALMELO, The Netherlands (A.W.)—The Chairman of Turkish-Azerbaijani Union in the Netherlands Ilham Askin was convicted on March 17 for making anti-Armenian remarks in a 2014 speech. Askin was sentenced by a Dutch court for hate speech and inciting violence for saying “Karabagh will be the grave of the Armenians” during a pro-Turkish rally in Almelo.
“We welcome this conviction by the Dutch court to punish Ilham Askin of the Turkish-Azerbaijani Union. Chants like ‘Karabagh will be the grave of the Armenians’ have no place in the Netherlands, in Europe. This is a clear message to those who call for violence and hatred, be it in Sweden, in the Netherlands, or elsewhere. We will be very vigilant on this matter,” Kaspar Karampetian, President of the European Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy (EAFJD), told the Armenian Weekly.
Askin make the comments on June 1, 2014, during a planned demonstration in Almelo against an Armenian Genocide memorial that was erected at the Armenian Apostolic Church there. The Armenian community, including the Federation of Armenian Organizations in the Netherlands (FAON) and the Dutch Armenian Committee for Justice and Democracy (Armenian National Committee of the Netherlands), had filed complaints to the local police regarding Askin’s comments.
A March 3 court hearing on the case lasted for about two hours. A video of the 2014 demonstration was shown, during which Askin can be seen chanting, “Karabagh will be the grave of the Armenians” several times, while a crowd repeats the slogan.
During the hearing, Askin stated that he did not consider the statement to be offensive and said that he did not regret saying those words.
The court decided to convict Askin with a more severe punishment than the prosecutor had demanded. Namely, 120 hours of community service and one month of suspended imprisonment with a probation of two years. The prosecutor demanded 80 hours of community service and a suspended imprisonment of two weeks with a probation of 2 years.
“The more severe punishment is necessary according to the court, because of the seriousness of the fact, and the way that it occurred,” read a part of the statement released by the Dutch Armenian Committee for Justice and Democracy regarding the case.
“Under the false pretext of free speech, no Azerbaijani or Turk can make such wide-spread Armenophobic statements. We congratulate our colleagues in the Netherlands for taking this issue to the court and finishing it off with success,” Karampetian said.
Tensions have recently been on the rise between the Netherlands and Turkey, after the Netherlands denied landing rights to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu last week.
“After a public call to Dutch nationals of Turkish origin to turn out in great numbers for a public gathering with Mr. Çavuşoğlu in Rotterdam on March 11, the government has concluded, public order and safety are at risk,” read a statement posted by the Dutch Foreign Ministry.
Turkish President Recap Tayyip Erdogan has been attempting to rally the estimated 4.6 million expatriate Turks living in Western Europe to vote in an upcoming Turkish referendum. If passed, the referendum would transform Turkey’s parliamentary system into a presidential one, giving Erdogan more power.