RIGHTS > Turkish PM refuses to comment as opposition slams Fazıl Say verdict

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News

The main oposition party leader lends support to pianist Fazıl Say, who was sentenced to 10 months for a retweet. Domestic and international reaction to the verdict is growing

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Fazıl Say was dealt a 10-month suspended jail term for blasphemy on April 15 in the latest in a series of cases to raise eyebrows about Turkey's dismal record on freedom of speech. AFP PHOTO / BERND THISSEN

Fazıl Say was dealt a 10-month suspended jail term for blasphemy on April 15 in the latest in a series of cases to raise eyebrows about Turkey's dismal record on freedom of speech. AFP PHOTO / BERND THISSEN

Reactions continued to grow yesterday after a Turkish court convicted world-renowned pianist Fazıl Say with a 10-month suspended prison sentence for blasphemy on April 15.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said the verdict showed that democracy in Turkey was under threat.

“If you are going to jail our artists, encourage the judiciary in that way. If you are going to abuse the justice system - which does not really exist - I am sad to say that democracy in this country is at stake,” Kılıçdaroğlu said at his party’s weekly group meeting April 16.

“If you convict our artist you do not shame only yourself, but your country as well. Turkey does not deserve such a scene,” he added.

On the other hand, when asked to comment on the issue, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan threw reporters a smile and said: “Do not occupy our time with such matters.”

European Union Minister Egemen Bağış also expressed his support for the court’s verdict. “Everyone should learn to respect what is sacred for others,” he said. 

Say was convicted for “insulting the religious beliefs held by a section of the society” in tweets and retweets posted on his account in April 2012.

The tweets including a couplet attributed to 12th century poet, mathematician and philosopher Omer Khayyam: “You say its rivers will flow in wine. Is the Garden of Eden a drinking house? You say you will give two houris to each Muslim. Is the Garden of Eden a whorehouse?” 

Say also tweeted the following observation: “I don’t know whether you have noticed or not but wherever there is a stupid person or a thief, they are believers in God. Is this a paradox?” 

‘A very bad player…’

In an interview with the Hürriyet Daily News in Ankara following the court’s decision, U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone merely said that his brother, David Ricciardone, who is a Supreme Court Judge in Massachusetts, had remarked to him: “A very bad piano player hit the wrong key.” 

The local branch of International PEN also issued a statement April 16 condemning the court’s verdict.

“Turkey will never bear peace if it does not realize the classic democratic powers of the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. Unfortunately, more people like Fazıl Say will be jailed,” the statement read.

Amnesty International’s Turkey researcher Andrew Gardner told Russia Today that the verdict was in line with a “clear trend of abusive prosecutions” in Turkey. 

“Anyone really speaking out on one of these controversial subjects risks prosecution from the authorities, if the view they are expressing does not fit with the view the authorities have on this controversial subject. It’s not so much an issue of secularism or religious values,” Gardner said. 


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Notice on comments

Foreign View

4/19/2013 5:20:47 AM

Ummah Muslim, Turkey is NOT a Muslim country, it is a Muslim majority. Part of the reason why Turks praise their nation and stand out from middle east is having a democratic nation with no state religion. Democracy includes freedom of speech,Turkey failed it's system by saying we do not have a state religion and we have freedom of speech and throwing someone in jail for criticizing Islam. The price he should have payed was losing his Islamic followers, Not jail!

Ummah Muslim

4/18/2013 12:04:34 AM

CHP does not understand that if you support this kind of religion enemy's , you will never be the number 1 party in Turkey. It makes the work of the AKP easy to stay the number 1 party in Turkey.

Vargen Vargen

4/17/2013 5:18:35 PM

The PM slams something every day. Usually it is the West (or Israel) or CHP and the old establishment. But when it comes to 10 months in jail for blasphemy, then it is very quiet............

mara mcglothin

4/17/2013 3:01:46 PM

I don't understand why the esteemed PM just sticks his head in the sand and makes no comment. This isn't going away. Now it is featured in many leading newspapers around the globe. Once again, Turkey is in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

Recep Ozel

4/17/2013 11:22:07 AM

AKP has a similar mentality to suicide bombers, which is the feeling of injustice towards their religion being inflicted on them for centuries by western powers. They feel like 'their people' have been oppressed and hurt, and it is their duty to push the islamic mindset at no cost...

Victor Winner

4/17/2013 9:49:37 AM

Turkey is no longer a Kemalist country; it's a shame! After 12 years, I hardly could recognize its people; many women covered with Islamic headscarves, burqas! Turks are at the verge of saying goodbye to the man whom they once used to refer to as their Father; Ataturk! Some Turks feel totally helpless against the Islamist government currently ruling Turkey, apparently with an iron fist. Sad to watch a country go down the drain after nearly a century of efforts for Western-style democratization.

h enderoğlu

4/17/2013 9:47:21 AM

I think if an honest poll was taken the number of agnostic or atheist Turks would surprise this Muslim country. Even in my own dealings with paperwork here, when I put "yok" in the religion section of a form they give it back (sometimes with a confused look) or put in Christian against my voiced wishes. People are not given the choice to choose no religion.

Michael Johnson

4/17/2013 8:58:05 AM

“A very bad piano player hit the wrong key.” That pretty much sums up the entire AKP government. Well said.

Elif Işıklar

4/17/2013 5:47:22 AM

Freedom of speech isn't a problem in Turkey caused by AKP, ey? Yeah right. Interesting Recep T. Erdogan indirectly insulted atheists the other day but nobody sued him. Atheism is a belief too, if speaking your mind about one's belief is wrong, logically, he should be charged too.

Ali Coskun

4/17/2013 3:27:42 AM

Just take it as a warning to anti-Muslim Turks and foreigners in Turkey - DO NOT insult us Muslims!
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