On Monday, April 15, celebrated pianist, composer, and writer Fazıl Say is due to appear in court for the third time for comments posted on Twitter. Say has been charged with religious defamation under Article 216/3 of the Turkish Penal Code for a series of messages he posted and re-tweeted, and under Article 218 of the Turkish Penal Code, which increases sentences by half for offenses committed “via press or broadcast.” Say, who denies the charges, faces up to 18 months in prison if found guilty.

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Background Information

Fazıl Say is an internationally renowned classical composer, concert pianist, and writer, whose orchestral pieces have been performed by the New York Philharmonic and the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, among others. A prolific composer, Say has penned a great number of orchestral works, oratorios, concertos, and chamber music in a career spanning over 20 years. He has also written three books on his life and music.

The claimant who brought the case against Say has argued that the tweets publicly degraded the holy values of three major religions—Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Say’s lawyer, Meltem Akyol, denied that his client's re-tweets were degrading to religious values, highlighting the fact that one of those included in the indictment was not only a re-tweet, but a direct quotation from a verse written by Omar Khayyam. Another simply stated "I am an atheist and I am proud to be able to say this so comfortably."

Fazıl Say is gravely concerned about the negative impact a prison sentence would have on his career and may consider moving abroad as a result of the "growing culture of intolerance" in Turkey.

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."

Fazıl Say’s next hearing is now scheduled to take place on Monday, April 15.

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. 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 web site) were called in for questioning in January 2013 by the Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office.

PEN has protested the investigation at the highest levels.

Write A Letter

  • Protesting the charges against Fazıl Say, which violate his right to free expression as guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Turkey is a signatory;
  • Calling for the investigation against PEN Turkey to be dropped at the earliest opportunity.

Send Your Letter To

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

Please also send appeals to diplomatic representatives of Turkey in your country.

***Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN International if sending appeals after April 16, 2013***