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Turkey Sentences Another Artist on Blasphemy Charges

Sun, May 26, 2013

Sevan Nisanyan

Sevan Nisanyan

Turkey has convicted yet another artist for blasphemy against Islam. Writer Sevan Nisanyan was sentenced to over a year in prison for "openly denigrating the religious values held by a certain portion of the population,” according to the Turkey’s semi-official Anatolian Agency.

The agency also reported that the sentence of the Turkish writer, who is also an ethnic Armenian, was also increased from its original nine months to one year and 45 days since “the crime was committed through the press.”

The prison sentence of Nisanyan follows last month's conviction of Turkish pianist Fazil Say, an internationally renowned pianist. Say was given a 10-month suspended sentence also for the “crime” of blasphemy after publishing on his Twitter account a few lines from a poem about Islam attributed to Omar Khayyam which read, “You say its rivers will flow in wine. Is the Garden of Eden a drinking house? You say you will give two hours to each Muslim. Is the Garden of Eden a whorehouse?”

In an English blog post, Nisanyan says “the court cited a single sentence from a note I posted on my blog on September 22, 2012, where I argued that speaking disrespectfully of the Prophet Muhammed does not constitute ‘hate speech.’" 

The sentence that aroused the ire of Turkey’s increasingly Islamist government was a comment by Nisanyan about the amateurish video, The Innoccence of Muslims, that provoked worldwide outrage in the Muslim world. The sentence in question on Nisamyan's blog read,

It is not “hate crime” to poke fun at some Arab leader who, many hundred years ago, claimed to have established contact with [a] Deity and made political, economic and sexual profit as a result. It is almost a kindergarten-level case of what we call freedom of expression.”

Nisanyan notes three different courts took up the case simultaneously after a number of individuals around Turkey reported the "crime." The court in Istanbul was the first to reach a verdict which Nisanyan says he expects to appeal.