Fazil Say

[Turkey] English PEN protests charges against Fazıl Say

Posted by & filed under Campaigns.

On 18 February 2013, celebrated pianist, composer and writer Fazıl Say will appear in court for the second time for comments posted on Twitter.

Fazıl Say, an outspoken critic of Prime Minister Erdoğan, has been charged with religious defamation under Article 216/3 of the Turkish Penal Code in response to a series of messages posted on Twitter, including one which simply states: “I am an atheist and I am proud to be able to say this so comfortably.” He has also been charged under Article 218 of the Turkish Penal Code, which increases sentences by half for offences committed “via press or broadcast”. Say denies the charges.

Say first appeared in court in Istanbul on 18 October 2012, where his lawyers demanded his immediate acquittal. The acquittal call was rejected and the case adjourned until 18 February 2013. He faces up to 18 months in prison if found guilty.

Fazıl Say is gravely concerned about the negative impact a prison sentence would have on his career as the country’s leading classical composer and an internationally-renowned pianist. Furthermore, he has suggested that he would consider moving abroad as a result of the “growing culture of intolerance” in Turkey.

English PEN believes that the charges against Say violate his right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Turkey is a signatory. Even those who are usually critical of Say have voiced concerns over this case, which they believe could be damaging to Turkey’s international reputation. Meanwhile Egemen Bağış, the minister for EU affairs with whom the PEN International delegation met during their mission to Turkey last November, has been reported as saying that the case against Say should be dismissed, describing the tweets in question as “his right to babble”.

Of further concern to PEN is the fact that our colleagues at PEN Turkey are currently under investigation for “insulting the state” as a result of critical comments about the ongoing prosecution of Say. Six members of the PEN Turkey board (President Tarık Günersel, Vice-President Halil İbrahim Özcan, General Secretary Sabri Kuşkonmaz, Treasurer Tülin Dursun, and board members Zeynep Oral and Mario Levi) and poet and critic Nihat Ateş (who uploaded the content to the PEN Turkey website) were called in for questioning in January 2013 by the Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office. The investigation is ongoing.


Show your support via social media

Please join us in sending a mass message of support for Fazıl Say, by supporting our Thunderclap. Participants in the Thunderclap agree for an automatic message to be sent from their Twitter and/or Facebook account, but only if we reach our target of 100 supporters by Monday 18 February. If the target is reached, a mass message goes from the accounts of all participants simultaneously.

Send letters of appeal

  • Protesting the charges against Fazıl Say, which violate his right to free expression;
  • Calling for the investigation against PEN Turkey to be dropped.

Appeals to

Mr Sadullah Ergin
Minister of Justice
06669 Kizilay
Fax: 00 90 312 419 3370
Email: sadullahergin@adalet.gov.tr

His Excellency Mr. Ünal Çeviköz
43 Belgrave Square
Fax: 020 7393 9213
Email: embassy.london@mfa.gov.tr

Or you could use the form below.  A sample letter is provided but it is always better if you put the appeal in your own words.

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