Top appeals court reverses blasphemy decision against Turkish pianist Say
Mesut Hasan Benli – ANKARATurkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals has reversed a 10-month jail sentence handed down to world renowned Turkish pianist and composer Fazıl Say on ground of blasphemy, stating his Twitter posts should be regarded within the concept of freedom of expression.
The 8th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals ruled by a majority vote that Say’s Twitter posts, which had led to his sentence on grounds of “insulting religious beliefs held by a section of society,” should be regarded as freedom of thought and expression and thus should not be punished. While four members of the criminal chamber voted for Say’s acquittal, one member voted to uphold the sentence. The reasoned decision of the Supreme Court of Appeals will be announced in the forthcoming days and then sent to the court of first instance, which had previously looked into the case and decided in favor of the sentence. If the court of first instance accepts the Supreme Court’s reversal decision, Say will be acquitted of the charges. If the court of first instance does not accept the Supreme Court’s decision, the judicial process for Say will continue.
Say had received a suspended 10-month prison sentence in April 2013, on charges of “insulting religious beliefs held by a section of society,” for retweeting several lines attributed to 11th-century Persian poet Omar Khayyam.
Say’s lawyers had demanded his suspended sentence be canceled. His demand had been accepted by the court, and the court had paved the way for Say to be retried.
During the retrial in September 2013, an Istanbul court had sentenced Say to 10 months in prison but since Say had no criminal record, the court suspended the sentence and ordered that Say be monitored.
The pianist appealed the verdict to the Supreme Court of Appeals, which demanded in November 2014 that the controversial judgment against Say be reversed and he be acquitted.
Among the lines attributed to Khayyam which Say retweeted was: “You say its rivers will flow in wine. Is the Garden of Eden a drinking house?”