High-profile human rights lawyer Amal Clooney went up against Doğu Perinçek Wednesday in a France court hearing involving the racial discrimination case of the Turkish Workers' Party chairman who claimed the Armenian genocide never happened. Here are five things you need to know about the hearing:
1. The players: Clooney and Geoffrey Robertson represented Armenia on behalf of Doughty Street Chambers, the British law firm they work for. "Armenia must have its day in court. The stakes could not be higher for the Armenian people," Clooney said, according to the Telegraph.
The case revolved around Perinçek, who was convicted in 2007 for denying the Armenian genocide. The European Court of Human Rights overturned that conviction in December on grounds that his right to free speech was violated, and Armenia filed an appeal. Turkey was a co-defendant in the case.
2. The background: As many as 1.5 million Armenians died at the hands of the Ottoman Turks from 1915 to 1923, the Associated Press reported. Turkey has argued that the death toll was not only exaggerated but also a result of civil war -- not genocide.
Perinçek has said that although there were widespread deaths, they don't fall under the legal term "genocide," according to Today's Zaman. During a 2005 demonstration in Switzerland, he called the incident "an international lie." Denying the genocide is illegal under Swiss anti-racism laws. He was arrested and later convicted in 2007.
Perinçek appealed that decision and won in the European Court of Human Rights last December. The court said he was just exercising his right to free speech, but this ruling "casts doubt on the reality of genocide that the Armenian people suffered a century ago," Clooney said Wednesday. Perinçek took an opposing stance, telling the court that "we are here for the freedom [of expression] of the people of Europe."
3. The hearing: Wednesday's hearing lasted more than two hours in Strasbourg, France. Clooney took the 17-member Grand Chamber through Armenia's history and said that the court had neglected to review the relevant evidence and witnesses, Today's Zaman reported. About 200 Perinçek supporters gathered outside. The Grand Chamber will announce its decision at a later date.
4. The implications: The principal issue was freedom of speech in Europe, where many countries have criminalized the refusal to recognize the Armenian massacres as "genocide," Reuters reported. France has faced legal battles in the past three years for adopting a law that makes it illegal to deny it.
Clooney refuted the idea that the hearing was an effort to limit free speech. "Armenia is not here to argue against freedom of expression any more than Turkey is here to defend it," she said.
5. The fame: Clooney, who's become famous since marrying American actor George Clooney, was surprised by the "rows of paparazzi" in court Wednesday, the Telegraph reported. Amal recently made headlines for donning white gloves at the Golden Globes, but when asked Wednesday what she was wearing, she joked it was barrister's robes. “It is not about white gloves or yachts," her colleague Robertson said. "It puts the record straight. She is a human rights lawyer."