Turkish-Armenian writer to be jailed after losing appeal in illegal construction trial
ISTANBUL – Agence France-Presse
Sevan Nişanyan gestures during the opening of a rock-cut tomb near Şirince, in İzmir province, last year. Nişanyan has accused the court of issuing a 'politically-motivated' verdict in his latest trial. DHA photoThe Supreme Court of Appeals on Dec. 12 approved the two-year jail sentence given to the Turkish-Armenian writer and linguist Sevan Nişanyan, over charges related to an illegal construction in İzmir’s Şirince village, where he lives.
Nişanyan also faces a 13.5-month prison sentence, pending appeal, after being sentenced last May by an Istanbul court for alleged blasphemy in a blog post supporting the controversial anti-Islam film “The Innocence of Muslims.”
The writer will be sent to jail next week, but accused the court of issuing a “politically-motivated” verdict.
In a country littered with illegal constructions, Nişanyan said the court ruling on Dec. 12 was punishment for his outspoken views about restrictions on freedom of expression in Turkey.
"It is politically motivated because in this community, those who try to be an individuals and stand firm on their ideas have always been punished," he told Agence France-Presse.
The 56-year old is one of the leading linguists of Turkey, and he helped turned the village of Şirince into a booming holiday spot after he bought several ruined Greek houses and turned them into hotels. Thousands of people from around the world flocked to Şirince in December 2012, believing the village - where many Christians say the Virgin Mary ascended to heaven - would be spared from the predicted Mayan doomsday.
Nişanyan’s conviction over his September 2012 blog post defending the anti-Islam film that ridiculed the Prophet Muhammad had sparked outrage among right groups.
"Mocking an Arab leader who centuries ago claimed to have contacted God and made political, financial and sexual benefits out of this is not a crime of hatred. It is an almost kindergarten-level test of what is called freedom of expression," Nişanyan had written. "
His words touched a nerve in the country and he received hundreds of death threats after the court decision.
On May 22, the day of the sentencing, Nişanyan retweeted his blog post on Twitter, writing: “Let’s share the article that was sentenced to 13-and-a-half months at the Istanbul 10th Criminal Court for insulting religious blah-blah.”
Nişayan's blasphemy sentence cannot be converted to a financial penalty because of a previous conviction.