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'There are many such cases in Turkey': Fazil Say trial not anomaly

Published time: April 15, 2013 17:37

Turkish pianist Fazil Say. (AFP Photo / Bernd Thissen)

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Turkish pianist Fazil Say being slapped with a suspended 10-month jail term for a controversial tweet is an example of a “clear trend of abusive prosecutions” in Turkey, Amnesty International researcher Andrew Gardner told RT.

“Anyone really speaking out on one of these controversial subjects risks prosecution from the authorities, if the view they are expressing does not fit with the view the authorities have on this controversial subject. It’s not so much an issue of secularism or religious values,” Gardner said.

RT: We know it's a suspended sentence and looks more like a warning than a punishment. Is this trial making an example out of Say? Perhaps, of political correctness.

Andrew Gardner: The conviction of Fazil Say today is one example of a clear trend of abusive prosecutions being brought against journalists, writers and others speaking out on controversial subjects. It is a clear violation of the right of freedom of press, there are many such cases in Turkey. That is why we call the law such as this one to be scrapped from Turkey’s statute.

RT: How does this fit in with Turkey’s secularism?

AG: It fits in very well with the pattern, which is one where controversial subjects which are tackled by well-known personalities such as Fazil Say, writers, journalists and others – anyone really speaking out on one of these controversial subjects risks prosecution from the authorities if the view they are expressing does not fit with the view the authorities have on this controversial subject. It’s not so much an issue of secularism or religious values. It could have been a whole range of subjects, like outspoken criticism on the Kurdish issue, criticism on the status of Armenian citizens.

RT: The musician has many times been critical of the country's prime minister, is this case personal?

AG: The prosecution is not brought on by one individual. It is a state prosecution, as such the state takes the responsibility for it. It is true the criticism of the prime minister has been the subject of criminal prosecutions under Turkey’s anti-defamation laws, and this is another serious problem. In this instance it’s really the Turkish state taking Fazil Say to court, finding him guilty. And it is the state’s responsibility to provide a remedy for this violation.

RT: Muslims make up the majority of Turkey's society, do you think Say was provocative when sending the tweets?

AG: It is a provocative statement, and there are many people who will be offended by what he said and do not agree with it. But the right of freedom of expression does not only include those ideas that are popular or uncontroversial. It protects those comments which are controversial and even offensive as well. And this is a clear case of one of those comments. People shouldn’t be prosecuted. And people should be able to take a different approach, certainly, and to disagree with it, and to state that fact. That is not the state of issue that should be taken to court and be convicted.