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Turkish Court Sentences World-Famous Pianist, Government Critic to Jail for Blasphemy

World-renowned Turkish pianist Fazil Say has been sentenced to 10 months in prison for blasphemy, following a retrial over social media posts he made criticizing Islam:

Say was prosecuted for a series of tweets criticizing Muslims, one of which said: “I am not sure if you have also realized it, but all the pricks, low-lifes, 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.

Say – a noted critic of the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan – was previously tried and convicted in April on charges of denigrating the religion.

Weeks after Say’s first trial, millions of Turkish citizens participated in mass anti-government protests. Ankara violently put down the unrest, killing dozens and injuring thousands, and generating sharp criticism from both the U.S. and the European Union. Say’s conviction will deepen skepticism regarding the possibility, long advocated in some corners of the foreign policy community, that Erdogan seeks to blend Islamism with recognizably modern civil liberties.

The human rights watchdog Freedom House recently criticized the Erdogan government for its crackdown:

More recently, however, his government has jailed hundreds of journalists, academics, opposition party officials, and military officers in a series of prosecutions aimed at alleged conspiracies against the state and Kurdish organizations. Turkey currently leads the world in the number of journalists behind bars, and democracy advocates are expressing deep concern for the state of press freedom and the rule of law.

[Photo: JewishNewsOne / YouTube]