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Famous Turkish Mozart Fazil Say gets 10 month jail sentence by court / Turkey News

World famous Turkish pianist Fazil Say has been given a suspended 10-month jail sentence for insulting Muslim values.

An Istanbul court found Say guilty over a series of posts on the social networking site Twitter.

Say was not in court for the sentencing. But he denied the charges, saying they were politically motivated.

Say was indicted in October after he was reported by Islamists for making fun of a particularly hurried call to prayer by a muezzin in an Istanbul mosque by saying: ”Why in such a rush? A lover or Raki (Turkish anise-flavored spirits)?” He also made jokes about the Islamic idea of paradise, citing verses by venerated Persian poet Omar Khayyam.

The pianist, a declared atheist and leftist, was not present at his sentencing, Hurriyet daily online reported. He condemned the proceedings against him, which many in Turkey saw as a symbol of the struggle for freedom of expression, as a politically motivated trial orchestrated by Islamic Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP), in power for 11 years.

Say said in October that if found guilty, he might emigrate to Japan. ”I am perhaps the first person in the world to be put on trial for declaring my atheism”, he told Hurriyet daily in an interview at the time.

The case renewed concern about the influence of religion on politics in Turkey.

Pointing to the prosecution of several artists and intellectuals for voicing their views, critics have accused the governing AK Party of undermining Turkey’s secular values and pandering to Islamists.

Prosecutors had brought the charges against Mr Say last June. He could have faced a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison.

The indictment against him cited some tweets, including a retweet by Mr Say which says: “I am not sure if you have also realised it, but if there’s a louse, a non-entity, a lowlife, a thief or a fool, it’s always an Allah-ist.”

Mr Say has previously said he was “amazed” at the charges.

Mr Say, 43, has played with the New York Philharmonic, the Berlin Symphony Orchestra and others, and has served as a cultural ambassador for the EU.


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