Turkey: appeals court orders retrial of famous pianist

Fazil Say convicted of blasphemy via Twitter

26 April, 20:01

    (ANSAmed) - ANKARA, APRIL 26 - An Istanbul court of appeals overturned a suspended 10-month sentence against world-famous pianist Fazil Say, 43, who was convicted of blaspheming Islam via Twitter, Anadolu news agency reported Friday.

    The appeals court has ordered a retrial in the controversial case that has sparked reaction in Turkey and abroad. Say was handed a suspended 10-month prison sentence on April 15 for ''insulting religious beliefs held by a section of the society''. The trial and sentencing of an artist Germans have dubbed ''the Turkish Mozart'' sparked protest from the European Commission, with Brussels saying it was ''concerned'' and inviting Turkey ''to fully respect freedom of expression''.

    A declared atheist and vocal opponent of Islamic Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Say had called the proceedings against him a ''political trial'' orchestrated by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

    Say had been the focus of a legal battle since he referred ironically to a hasty call to prayer via Twitter: ''22 seconds...why in such a hurry? A lover? Raki? (Turkish anise-flavored spirits)''. In April 2012 he tweeted several lines attributed to 12th-century Persian poet Omar Khayyam: ''You say its rivers will flow in wine. Is the Garden of Eden a drinking house? You say you will give two houris to each Muslim. Is the Garden of Eden a whorehouse?'' The musician, who is supported by artists, intelllectuals, and 103 German MPs, said he would go into self-exile in Japan if convicted. ''I may be the first in the world to be put on trial for being a declared atheist'', he said.

    Opposition leader Kemal Kilicadaroglu criticized Erdogan, saying, ''If you want to jail our artists, tell the judges to keep going this way. If you convict our artists, you will cover with shame not only yourselves, but our entire country. And Turkey does not deserve this''.

    Making no comment on the sentencing, Erdogan invited reporters ''not to waste time on such things'', while Deputy Premier Bulent Arinc stated that ''insulting that which others believe in deserves penal sanctions''. (ANSAmed).

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