Thursday, February 22, 2007

U visiting professor is victim of campaign of intimidation

February 21, 2007
Star Tribune

What's new: Taner Akçam, an expert on the Armenian genocide and a visiting professor at the University of Minnesota's Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, was detained in Montreal by Canadian customs officials Friday. He was held for more than four hours while officials investigated a charge of terrorism leveled against him by unknown persons.

What happened: Akçam had been invited to speak at a human-rights symposium at McGill University Law School. A Canadian customs officer showed him copies of reviews of his new book on the Armenian tragedy, "A Shameful Act," from and that said Akçam was a member of a terrorist organization.

The outcome: While being questioned, Akçam was contacted on his cell phone by his host, McGill professor Payam Akhavan, when he failed to pass customs. Akhavan called the office of Jason Kenney, secretary of state for multiculturalism, and Stockwell Day, the minister of public safety. Akçam's release followed almost immediately.

Not the first time: Akçam, who is a Turk, believes this was part of "a campaign against me by the Turkish authorities" for speaking out on the Armenian genocide. "When I was at New York University recently as part of my book tour, the autograph session was broken up by Turkish nationalists. They distributed a flier labeling me a terrorist and claiming that I was responsible for the deaths of Americans in Turkey."

The same thing happened in December at the Benjamin N. Cardozo Law School in New York, but with a twist. When e-mails suggested the same group was going to break up a conference on genocide and law, the sponsors called the Turkish Consulate in Manhattan to complain. The next day, Akçam said, a consular official called Cardozo to say there would be no demonstration. There wasn't.

The fallout: Akçam said that because of the campaign of intimidation against him he is fearful for his life when he travels outside the United States. "I have been forced to cancel five international appearances at academic conferences," he said. "Under the guise of freedom of speech, certain groups are causing me great physical and material harm. It is very difficult to do my work."

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

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