Armenia memorial stolen in France


October 15, 2006
Source: BBC News (London)

Marseille's Armenian memorial is one of many in France

-- AFP

A bronze statue commemorating the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Armenians in Turkey has been stolen from the Paris suburb of Chaville.

Police say the monument may have been taken to be sold as scrap metal.

But some are connecting the theft to last Thursday's vote by the French parliament making it a crime to deny that Armenians suffered "genocide".

Armenia says Ottoman Turks killed 1.5 million people systematically in 1915 - a claim strongly denied by Turkey.

The 300kg (660lb) sculpture was cut off its pedestal in the suburb of Chaville 13km (8 miles) from Paris some time between Friday night and Saturday morning, local officials said.

But the site in front of Chaville's train station had otherwise not been vandalised and there was no graffiti.

One motive may have been money with the monument, which was erected in 2002, being taken to be melted down and sold on as scrap.
But Stephane Topalian, a member of the Armenian church council in Chaville, said that was unlikely.

"Police say it might have been stolen for the metal, but it seems too much of a coincidence that this should have happened just after parliament voted the Armenia bill," he told Reuters news agency.

Turkey condemned the French vote which would make it a crime to deny that Armenians suffered "genocide" at the hands of the Ottoman Turks.
Ankara, which said the move was a serious blow to relations, threatened sanctions. The vote was also criticised by the EU.

The bill still needs to be approved by the Senate and the president to become law.

France has a large Armenian community, with up to 500,000 people of Armenian descent.

There are more than 30 memorials to Armenian victims across France.