Turkey convicts pianist Fazil Say for 'blasphemous' tweets


Pianist and composer Fazil Say on February 9, 2010 before a concert at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees in Paris. The musician, who has played with several of the world's top orchestras, was convicted of blasphemy in his native Turkey on April 15, 2013.



Fazil Say, one of Turkey's most famous classical musicians, has been convicted of blasphemy for posting a series of tweets that prosecutors say insulted Islam.

A court in Istanbul today gave the internationally acclaimed pianist a 10-month suspended jail term for "insulting religious values of a part of the population." He will not be sent to prison unless he is convicted of reoffending within five years.

Say, who was not present in court, has denied the charges ever since they were filed in June 2012.

His Twitter posts contained no intentional denigration or mockery of Islam, defense lawyer Meltem Akyol argued, telling Reuters afterward that she was shocked the court had ruled otherwise.

"All I can say is, both legally and for the country, it's a sad decision," Akyol said.

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Say, who is openly atheist, aroused prosecutors' ire with some half a dozen tweets referring to Islam and its practices, including one that said: "I am not sure if you have also realized it, but all the pricks, low-lives, buffoons, thieves, jesters, they are all Allahists" (actually a retweet of another user's words).

In another, he joked that a nearby mosque had rushed the call to evening prayers, suggesting that the muezzin may have had a lover waiting for him or been eager to have a drink.

The posts meant Say faced a maximum of 18 months in jail for charges of inciting religious hatred and insulting Muslims' values.

He has long maintained that the charges were an attempt to silence his vocal criticism of the ruling AKP, or Justice and Development Party, which he accuses of seeking to impose conservative, Islamist values on Turkey's secular republic.

Pointing to the hundreds of intellectuals, journalists and politicians jailed on vague charges of plotting against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government, Say has compared modern Turkey to Germany under the Nazis.

His case has become something of a cause célèbre for those who share his fears. Amnesty International called it "a prominent example of the ways in which the prosecutors and courts have used the law in Turkey to stifle dissent and controversial opinions."