Famous Turkish pianist handed jail term for insulting Islam

Famous Turkish pianist handed jail term for insulting Islam

ISTANBUL - An Istanbul court on Friday again handed a 10-month suspended jail term to world-renowned Turkish pianist Fazil Say during a retrial over social media posts deemed religiously offensive, his lawyer said.

Say, who was not present at Friday's hearing, was also placed on a two-year probation, his lawyer Meltem Akyol told AFP, adding that he planned to appeal the verdict.

Say was originally sentenced on April 15 for allegedly inciting religious hatred and insulting Islamic values in a series of tweets he posted last year.

A higher Istanbul court then overturned the conviction on "procedural flaws" and a retrial was ordered.

On Friday, the 43-year-old virtuoso, who has played with the philharmonic orchestras of Berlin, New York, Tokyo and Israel, shrugged off his sentence.

"Tomorrow, I will continue to live and to produce," he wrote in a tweet. "By continuing to live, by continuing to think as a free man, I will produce even better work."

Say was prosecuted for a series of tweets criticising Muslims, one of which said: "I am not sure if you have also realised it, but all the pricks, low-lives, buffoons, thieves, jesters, they are all Allahists. Is this a paradox?"

Another tweet which prosecutors say explicitly insulted religious values, questions why a call to prayer was so short.

"The muezzin (traditional Muslim prayer leader) finished the evening prayers in 22 seconds ... Why are you in such a hurry? A lover? A raki table?" he tweeted, referring to Turkish strong alcoholic drink.

The high-profile case has irked secular Turks, who are worried about what they see a creeping Islamic conservatism in the predominantly Muslim country.

Say has accused the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of being behind the case against him.

The case has also stoked fears of growing restrictions on freedom of expression in a country which has long sought to join the European Union.

Dozens of journalists are in detention in Turkey, as well as lawyers, politicians and lawmakers -- most of them accused of plotting against the government or having links with the outlawed Kurdish rebel movement the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

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