Turkey: the pianist Fazil Say sentenced to jail for his opinions

Press release
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For having shared a verse of an Omar Khayyam poem on the social networks, the famous pianist, Fazil Say was charged and sentenced to ten months in prison for “insulting religious values”.

In Turkey during the last thirty years, hundreds of thousands of people have been prosecuted for their opinions and tens of thousands of them have been found guilty. The provisions of the Penal Code were revised several times and the antiterrorism law has been amended. But, none of these changes have gone to the root of the problem. The fourth series of legal revisions were designed to conform to the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights but they only introduced partial changes. Freedom of opinion is still not protected.

Turkey is used to taking legal steps that go one step forward and two steps backward. The new provisions, in any case, do not change the authoritarian, repressive concept applied by Turkey; the form of the concept is constantly changing but basically, the substance remains the same.

There are thousands of opinion prisoners in Turkish prisons. Some have been arrested and judged for belonging to illegal organisations, others have been arrested on false pretences. A closer look shows that many of the detainees are mayors, politicians, lawyers, students, etc. These are not people who use violence or weapons. They are taken to court because of their opinions.

Now that peace negotiations are getting started in Turkey, freedom of opinion is crucial. It is extremely urgent for the law restricting freedom of opinion and speech to be revised. This is the only way to step up the negotiations process and to enable the intellectuals, artists and human rights defender to make their contributions when the peace process gets stuck.

Turkey has once against trampled freedom of speech by sentencing Fazil Say, an eminent artist of world repute, for having shared poems by another artist of world repute on the social networks.

Turkey should stop punishing people for their opinions and thereby eliminate this source of shame it now shoulders. People who are in prison because of their opinions should be released, they should receive apologies and their charges should be annulled.

Opinions cannot be held down by chains.


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