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Turkish pianist receives suspended prison sentence over tweets

Turkish pianist Fazil Say was convicted over comments posted on Twitter
Turkish pianist Fazil Say was convicted over comments posted on Twitter

An Istanbul court convicted Pianist Fazil Say of blasphemy over his tweets, ordering him to serve 10 months of prison - a sentence that was later suspended.

"I am so sorry for my country. This verdict goes beyond my situation, it is worrying for freedom of expression and belief in Turkey," Say said to the press.

Prosecutors charged Say with "humiliating religious values publicly", under the Turkish Penal Code, Articles 216/3. ve 218/1.

"Rather than criticism within the borders of freedom of expression, the aforementioned tweet messages diffused by Mr. Say did not only fail to contribute to any public debates but also humiliated d religious concepts such as God, heaven and hell without a meaningful motive. It is the prosecutor's claim that Say wrote these tweets with the intention to mock these values in a way to present them as trivial and cheap," the indictment said.

Following a critical declaration, PEN Turkey also faced a judicial investigation.

Ömer Çelik, Turkey's Culture Minister, addressed inquiries concerning the Say verdict during a trip in London, England.

"As you see, the latest judicial reforms removed some of the obstacles against freedom of expression in Turkey. Personally, I wouldn't wish to see anybody convicted for what they said. Especially intellectuals. But we are all equal before the court. It is ultimately the court's decision. I can't say anything further."

Some of Say's tweets leading to his conviction included:

"Wine will flow from the rivers, you say. Is heaven a tavern? Every Muslim man will receive two concubines, you say. Is heaven a brothel? I don't know whether you noticed, but all nit, despicable, gossipy people and thieves are uttering Allah. Isn't this a paradox?"

"It only took 22 seconds for the muezzin to finish his evening prayer call. Prestissimmo con fuco! Why this hurry? Lover? Raki table?"

"Is God something that you would die for or kill for like an animal? Think about this too."

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