Fazil Say Trial: Turkish Pianist Sentenced for Twitter Insults Against Islam

By Logan K. Young on Apr 15, 2013 12:05 PM EDT

Today, atheist pianist Fazil Say got handed down a controversial 10-month jail sentence for his previous anti-Muslim remarks on Twitter. 

According to Say's lawyer Meltem Akyol, the 19th criminal court of Istanbul convicted one of their own on a suspended sentence. The Turks ordered a "supervised release" for Say, meaning that he would be free as long as he didn't commit a similar crime within the next five years. 

Say, 43, was not in court for the sentencing. Naturally, he denied all charges, claiming they were politically motivated. 

"I feel very sorry on behalf of my country about the court ruling," Say wrote on his official Facebook page. "I'm disappointed in terms of freedom of expression. Although I'm innocent, the fact that I was found guilty is worrying for freedom of expression and religion in Turkey."

The indictment against Say cited a few of his tweets--including a retweet--in which the pianist posted:

"I am not sure if you have also realised it, but if there's a louse, a non-entity, a lowlife, a thief or a fool, it's always an Allah-ist."

Pointing to the recent prosecution of several other artists and intellectuals, critics have accused Turkey's governing AK Party of undermining the country's secular values and pandering to Islamists. 

"The right to freedom of speech is under attack in Turkey," said Amnesty International in a report last month. The group called it one of the country's "most entrenched human rights problems," and longs for legitimate legislation to bring "abuses to an end."  

Culture Minister Omer Celik said he does not want artists or intellectuals in court because of what they say, but according to the state-run Anatolia news agency, Celik admitted, "it's a judicial verdict in the end." 

Turkish prosecutors first brought charges against Mr. Say last June. The maximum sentence the concert pianist could have faced was 18 months in prison.

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TagsFazil Say, Trial, Turkey, Twitter, Facebook, Islam

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