Turkish pianist and composer Fazil Say has been given a suspended 10-month prison sentence for remarks made on Twitter which a Turkish court judged to have been insulting to Muslim values.
Currently on tour in Germany, he did not attend the sentencing. Mr Say had denied the charges at trial and stated of the decision: ‘I am sorry for the decision of the court on behalf of both myself and my country. I am extremely disappointed with the restrictions on freedom of thought and expression.
‘The fact that I have been charged with punishment despite being totally innocent is alarming not only on a personal level but in terms of freedom of expression and beliefs in Turkey.’
Mr Say’s sentence will come into effect if he commits a similar offence within five years. He has closed his Twitter account.
Tweets cited by the prosecution included the following: ‘I am not sure if you have noticed, but where there is a louse, a non-entity, a low life, thief or fool, they are all Islamists.’; ‘The muezzin recited the evening prayer in 22 seconds. Prestissimo con fuca!!! What is your hurry? A lover? [alcoholic drink] Raki?’; ‘I am an atheist, and I am proud to say this with such ease’; and a quotation from the 11th century poet Omar Khayyam which asked if heaven was a tavern or brothel.
The conviction was condemned by Amnesty International, with the group’s Turkey researcher, Andrew Gardner, saying that the conviction was just one example of ‘a clear trend of abusive prosecutions being brought against journalists, writers and others speaking out on controversial subjects. It is a clear violation of the right of freedom of press, there are many such cases in Turkey.
‘That is why we call the law such as this one to be scrapped from Turkey’s statute. … the right of freedom of expression does not only include those ideas that are popular or uncontroversial. It protects those comments which are controversial and even offensive as well. And this is a clear case of one of those comments.’