Turkey’s disgraceful prosecution of Fazil Say

Saturday, 20 April, 2013

On Monday, a Turkish court convicted the country’s best-known pianist and composer, Fazil Say, for the crimes of inciting hatred and insulting Islam. Say was given a 10-month suspended sentence in absentia, for a series of tweets he sent to his 44,000 followers. The chilling point of the suspended sentence is that he will go to prison if he repeats the tweets. What exactly did Say say? He joked about imams and muezzin; he joked about which kind of booze will be available in the afterlife; and he forwarded a rhyming couplet from a 12th century Persian poet about the garden of Eden, wine and sex.

The abuse of the courts by Turkey’s Islamic-leaning government to punish “insults” makes a mockery of its claim to be a democracy. There can be no democracy without free speech, and without an independent judiciary Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan needs to be told that there can be no democracy, either.

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