Turkey: blasphemy; pianist Fazil Say sentenced to 10 months

On charge of 'insulting religious beliefs' for tweets on Islam

20 September, 12:26

    Turkish pianist and composer Fazil Say Turkish pianist and composer Fazil Say

    (ANSAmed) - ISTANBUL - World-renowned Turkish pianist Fazil Say, who was sentenced to 10 months in prison for blasphemy in April, was again sentenced to 10 months by an Istanbul court today in a retrial, Hurriyet online reports quoting Dogan News Agency.

    Say had received a suspended 10-month prison sentence on charges of "insulting religious beliefs held by a section of the society," for re-tweeting several lines, which are attributed to poet Omar Khayyam. Say's lawyers had demanded his suspension be canceled. His demand had been accepted by the court, and the court had paved the way for Say to be re-tried.

    The 19th Istanbul Peace Court sentenced Say to 10 months in prison but since Say has no criminal record, the court suspended the sentence and ordered supervised liberty. If Say does not commit another crime within two years, the case will be dropped.

    Say was found guilty of 'insulting religious values' under article 216 of the Turkish criminal code for a few tweets in which he joked about the hasty call to prayer of a muezzin at a mosque in Istanbul - '22 seconds ..: why such a hurry? A lover? Raki (Turkish anisette)?'. And on Islamic heaven he quoted a great Persian poet from 1100, Omar Khayyam: 'You say rivers of wine flow in Paradise: Is it a celestial pub? And that two virgins are awaiting every believer, is Paradise a celestial brothel?'.

    Three Islamic activists reported Say who was subsequently indicted by prosecutors in Istanbul.

    The musician, 43, a self-proclaimed atheist and leftist, is a well-known opponent of the government of Islamist premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan and one of the most renowned Turkish intellectuals. The pianist and composer is considered a'Turkish Mozart' in Germany. Many Turkish artists and intellectuals have supported him. In a message sent after the first sentence to the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Fay said freedom of expression is increasingly at risk in Turkey and the country is living through 'a difficult period as those who try to consolidate their power exploiting religion are oppressing people'. (ANSAmed).
     

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