[Marxism] Turkish Pianist Sentenced for Twitter Postings
lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Apr 15 08:21:09 MDT 2013
NY Times April 15, 2013
Turkish Pianist Sentenced for Twitter Postings
By SEBNEM ARSU
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
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
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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