Turkish Pianist Convicted for Tweeting Against Islam

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Turkish pianist and composer Fazil Say faces jail time after being convicted Monday of blasphemy and inciting hatred. The musician was accused last year after a series of comments he made on Twitter.

In one message he re-tweeted a verse from a poem that attacks pious hypocrisy and questions whether heaven is a brothel or a tavern. In another he commented on Islamic practices.

Say joked that a call to prayer only lasted 22 seconds, tweeting: "Why such haste? Have you got a mistress waiting or a raki on the table?" Raki refers to an alcoholic drink that is forbidden by Islam. Islamists consider such remarks blasphemy.

A Turkish court sentenced him to a suspended 10-month jail term. But the musician's lawyer says he will only have to serve the term if he commits a similar offence within the next five years.

Say called the verdict "a sad one for Turkey" and warned, "The fact that I was given a sentence despite my innocence is cause for concern with regard to freedoms of expression and belief."

Sevim Dagdelen, a German lawmaker who has campaigned for Say, called his conviction "a scandal" and suggested that Turkey be blocked from joining the European Union.

Meanwhile the Culture and Tourism Minister Omer Celik said, "I would not wish anyone to be put on trial for words that have been expressed. This is especially true of artists and cultural figures," but "this is a judicial decision."

Armenian journalist Hrant DinkTurkey was shot dead outside his Istanbul office for comments about killings of Aremnians by Turks and Turkish Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk was prosecuted for similar comments, making some note that Turkey has a history of silencing public critics of the government.

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