[Marxism] Turkish Pianist Sentenced for Twitter Postings

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Apr 15 08:21:09 MDT 2013

NY Times April 15, 2013
Turkish Pianist Sentenced for Twitter Postings

ISTANBUL — A court here handed down a suspended 10-month jail term on 
Monday for Fazil Say, an internationally acclaimed Turkish pianist and 
composer convicted of insulting Islam and offending Muslims in postings 
on Twitter.

Mr. Say, 42, who has performed with major orchestras around the world in 
places including New York, Berlin and Tokyo, said during earlier 
hearings that the accusations against him went “against universal human 
rights and laws.” The sentence was suspended for five years, meaning 
that the pianist will not be sent to prison unless he is convicted of 
re-offending within that period.

In recent years, many intellectuals, writers and artists have been 
prosecuted for statements about Islam and Turkish identity, both of 
which the pro-Islamic government seeks to shield from criticism. Social 
media outlets like Facebook and Twitter, however, have rarely figured in 
previous trials, although Turks are active users of the sites.

The messages cited in the indictment were Mr. Say’s personal remarks 
referring to a poem by a famous 11th-century Persian poet, Omar Khayyam, 
which poked fun at an Islamic vision of the afterlife.

The poem was sent to Mr. Say from another user before he forwarded it.

In another personal Twitter post, he joked about the rapid call to 
prayer at a nearby mosque, questioning whether the muezzin who makes the 
call was running late for a drink.

Mr. Say, who denied the charges, is known for his critical stance 
against the government’s social and cultural policies. He has said 
publicly that he is an atheist — a rare statement in a country where the 
bulk of the population of 74 million identify themselves as Muslims. 
“Would it be for the government to decide whether a person believes in 
God or not?” Mr. Say said on CNN Turk, a private television news 
channel, in a recent interview. “It is hard for them to put me in jail.”

Many intellectuals and writers, including the Nobel laureate Orhan 
Pamuk, have faced similar charges in recent years, prompting heavy 
international criticism of Turkey’s record on freedom of speech and 
human rights.

Mr. Pamuk was fined $3,700 for saying in a Swiss newspaper that Turks 
“have killed 30,000 Kurds and 1 million Armenians,” in reference to the 
1915 mass killings of Armenians by the Ottoman Army – a deeply 
contentious issue in Turkey.

In other continuing trials, dozens of writers and intellectuals and a 
large number of journalists face a wide range of terrorism-related 
charges, hampering Turkey’s continuing efforts to join the European 
Union, which sets high judicial standards for would-be members.

Hundreds of Mr. Say’s fans and supporters have attended the three 
hearings in six months to protest against his prosecution. He has 
continued to perform nationally and internationally, and, when the 
sentence was handed down, he was in Germany for a concert in the 
southern town of Reutlingen.

In a written statement, Mr. Say said he was concerned about the 
implications of the court’s judgment for freedom of expression in his 
country, since he had been sentenced “although I’ve committed no crime.”

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