A Turkish court has convicted 43-year-old Fazil Say of denigrating the Islamic faith.


A photo taken on February 9, 2010 shows Turkish pianist and composer Fazil Say posing at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees in Paris. Fazil Say,charged with attacks on religious values for a series of provocative tweets about Islam, will go on trial from October 17, 2012. Under Turkish law, anyone convicted of insulting religious values can be sentenced to between three months and one year in prison. | FRED DUFOUR/AFP/GettyImages

Say, a concert pianist and composer who has played with the New York Philharmonic and Berlin Symphony along with several other famous orchestras, was accused of insulting Islamic religious values last year on social media site Twitter. On Monday, the judge in the case handed down a 10-month jail sentence but suspended it by five years. Say will not be jailed if he avoids repeating the offense within that time.

The charges against Say came after he re-Tweeted a quote from 11th-century Persian poet Omar Khayyam:

You say rivers of wine flow in heaven, is heaven a tavern to you? You say two houris await each believer there, is heaven a brothel to you?

He later Tweeted a mocking question aimed at a muezzin - an Islamic official responsible for calling believers to prayer:

The muezzin finished the evening prayers in 22 seconds ... Why are you in such hurry? A lover? A raki table?

Raki is a popular Turkish alcoholic drink.

These and other tweets led to Say being accused of “explicitly insulting religious values”.

In a statement on his Facebook page, Say wrote:

On behalf of my country, I'm sorry about the decision reached at the end of the trial. I'm disappointed in terms of free speech. That I have been punished despite an absence of guilt is disconcerting not so much for me, but for freedom of speech and belief in Turkey.

Say’s conviction comes at a time when other Turkish intellectuals are facing similar charges even as Turkey continues its efforts to be admitted into the European Union. The EU holds its members to high judicial standards, and this case could serve to further hamper Turkey’s bid to join.