Turkish Musician Is Sentenced to Jail for Twitting

Turkish Musician Is Sentenced to Jail for Twitting

It is not necessary to commit a crime to be sentenced to jail. It could be just a twit message that puts you behind bars even if you are a well known pianist. That is what happened to Fazil Say, a Turkish musician, who according to an Istanbul court rule, could spend 10 month in prison just for his Twitter message.

Fazil Say – a pianist and composer – twitted the quote from Omar Khayyam referring to the Islamic paradise:

“You say its rivers will flow in wine. Is the Garden of Eden a drinking house? You say you will give two houris {concubines} to each Muslim. Is the Garden of Eden a whorehouse?”

And then he added his own reflection:

“I don’t know whether you noticed, but all nits, despicable, gossipy and thief people are uttering Allah. Isn’t this a paradox?”

The paradoxical consequence for the free spirited musician came later. He was charged for “insulting religious beliefs held by a section of the society” and sentenced for 10 month in prison with five year suspension by the 19th Istanbul Peace court.

Re-trial of the court was held on September 20th. The only thing Say’s lawyers could achieve was shortening his suspension sentence from five years to two. If during two following years Fazil Say will commit another crime he will be sent to jail. And considering absurdness of the blasphemy charge against him it will be very easy to blame him for a second crime – another twit with anti-religious or anti-government message might be enough.

Fazil Say, a well known musician who successfully performed in New York, Berlin, Dusseldorf, Tokyo, lived in New York for seven years, but he returned to Istanbul to raise his daughter on the Turkish soil. However, after living in New York he was very much disappointed by the non liberal changes in his native country under the rule of a conservative AK party that is strongly devoted to religion. He was inspired by culture and traditions of Japan and was even considering moving there, but now he is sentenced to jail with suspension.

 “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” he said on his web-site after the verdict.

Fazil Say is not the only one in Tutkey persecuted for his believes. Just this summer 72 journalists were fired or forced to take a leave after covering Turkish Gezy park protests, according to the Turkish Journalists Union. 70 journalists are imprisoned putting Turkey in a list of most dangerous countries for journalists.

Despite ratification of European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental freedoms that guarantees the safety for non-violent opinion, Turkey has a law that punish insults to Turkishness. A novelist Orhan Pamuk – the only Turkish Nobel prize winner – was once accused under this law for discussing Armenian genocide. Inflicting religious or racial hatred is also punishable by Turkish law.

45 students of the Middle Eastern Technical University in Ankara are awaiting now a court decision alleged with the violating the Meetings and Demonstration laws. They protested against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the launch ceremony of a Turkish satellite. Prosecution demands six years in prison for students.

The interesting point is that the current Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan was sentenced to prison in 1999 for citing some Islamic verses. Unfortunately, his imprisonment experience did not encourage him to have a strong stand for the freedom of expression. Now his government is punishing people who dares to speak their mind including Fazil Say – a world known musician.

By Alsu Salakhutdinov

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