Turkey transfers to France body of executed Armenian militant: report

The Turkish authorities have transferred to France the body of an Armenian militant 33 years after he was hanged for carrying out a deadly assault on Ankara's international airport, a report said Thursday.

The corpse of Levon Ekmekjian was flown to France following an appeal to the interior ministry from his family, who wanted the body to have a religious burial there, the Hurriyet daily said.

Ekmekjian, a Lebanese Armenian, was executed on January 28, 1983 at Ankara's Ulucanlar prison after being found guilty of carrying out the attack.

The Turkish authorities last week informed the family through their lawyer Eren Keskin that the interior ministry had agreed to the long-standing request for the transfer of the body, Hurriyet said.

The location of the corpse in Ankara's Cebeci Asri cemetery was confirmed and the body was then exhumed. It was then sent by air to France.

Ekmekjian was affiliated with the underground so-called Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA), which carried out a string of deadly attacks in the 1970s and 1980s purportedly aimed at avenging the mass killing of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire from 1915 in World War I.

Armenia accuses Ottoman forces of carrying out a genocide of Armenians but Ankara has always angrily rejected this term. One of ASALA's avowed goals was to force the Turkish government to acknowledge that genocide had taken place.

Ekmekjian stormed Ankara's Esenboga airport on August 7, 1982 along with co-attacker Zohrab Sarkissian, detonating a bomb and opening fire on officers and passengers.

At least seven people were killed on the spot by the attack and dozens more wounded.

Sarkissian was killed by security forces but Ekmekjian was wounded, arrested, put on trial and sentenced to death. Ekmekjian, born in the Armenian-dominated Beirut district of Bourj Hammoud, was 25 at the time of his execution.

Turkey formally abolished the death penalty in 2004, a key commitment for its bid to join the EU. But it had exercised a de-facto moratorium on carrying out death sentences long before that.

The last convict to be hanged in Turkey was left-wing militant Hidir Aslan, who was hanged on October 25, 1984.

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