Akcam had his own run-ins with the Turkish government in the 1970s. He was jailed for printing Marxist articles and eventually escaped from a primitive prison converted from an old stable, he said. Turkish authorities confirmed his arrest and escape, and said he was linked to a pro-Soviet revolutionary group.
Akcam said he was allowed to return to Turkey, and did so briefly, but realized that the government would obstruct his research. He relied mostly on German and American records of the massacres, he said, because the Turks purged most references to the atrocities from their archives.
He said one of the reasons Turkey so fiercely denies that the genocide occurred is because the founding fathers of the nation were involved.
Flora Dunaians, a 64-year-old Pasadena resident who attended the talk, said she has heard all the Turkish arguments and that they do not explain how more than a million people disappeared and hundreds of thousands more fled to foreign countries. She said the Armenian reaction to Akcam was overwhelmingly grateful.
"In my 64 years, I haven't seen anything like it."