Turkey: Virtuoso pianist Say in court for blasphemy

Over tweet on zealots. He risks up to 18 months in jail

18 October, 12:52

Turkish pianist Fazil Say (archive photo) Turkish pianist Fazil Say (archive photo)

(ANSAmed) - ANKARA - The controversial trial of internationally renowned pianist Fazil Say kicked off this morning with a preliminary hearing in an Istanbul court. Say is charged with 'insulting the religious values of part of the population' with ironic tweets on Muslim zealots.

The pianist, 42, an atheist and left-wing sympathizer who is criticized by Turkish fundamentalists, risks up to 18 months in jail. Dozens of intellectuals, artists and human rights activists welcomed him this morning in front of the court to show their support. Banners brought by demonstrators read, among other things, 'an artist is free' and 'the AKP (the party of Islamic nationalist Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan) leaves artists free'.

Liberal and secularist Turks see the trial as a symbol of the progressive influence exercised by religion in the country, a process they blame on Erdogan against the ideals of the founder of modern Turkey Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

In his tweets, Say also joked about the muezzin of an Istanbul mosque who recited prayers very quickly: 'why is he in such a rush? Because of a lover or Raki?' he jokes referring to the Islamic paradise inspired by the great Persian poet Omar Khayyam.

A number of Islamic conservatives reported him and Istanbul prosecutors are now bringing him to court.

Many in Turkey now see this trial as a symbol of potential limits to the freedom of expression of the new Islamic nationalist wave headed by the AKP party of Erdogan, in power for the last decade. Say has played in the most prestigious orchestras worldwide and has said he might leave the country and maybe move to Japan.(ANSAmed).

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