France's highest court has put a stop to controversial legislation deeming it a crime to deny genocide. Turkey, which had threatened to sever relations with France over the law, welcomed the ruling.
The Constitutional Court ruled that the genocide bill would violate people's right to freedom of expression on Tuesday, so that it cannot become law.
Soon after, French President Nicolas Sarkozy asked the government to prepare a new draft of the legislation that takes into account the Constitutional Court's concerns.
In a statement he noted "the great disappointment and profound sadness of all those who welcomed with hope and gratitude the adoption of this law aimed at providing protection against revisionism."
The French parliament had passed the legislation in late January. More than 100 parliamentarians contested the law, many out of concern, like the high court, that it would restrict freedom of expression.
France identifies as genocide the Holocaust and the 1915-1917 Ottoman Empire massacre of Armenians in which 1.5 million people were believed to have been killed, according to Armenian sources.
Turkey had protested strongly against the legislation and threatened France with an end to diplomatic relations and business ties. Ankara rejects any reference to the Armenian massacre as genocide and puts the number of dead at up to 500,000, saying that many died on both sides of the fighting.
Turkey lauded the court decision on Tuesday.
"The Constitutional Council made the right decision that does not indulge political concerns," Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said in a Twitter message. "This decision has averted a potentially serious crisis in Turkish-French ties."
ncy/ccp (AFP, dpa, Reuters)