PEN International welcomes the acquittal of Turkish writer, composer and world-renowned pianist Fazil Say, after a four-year legal battle. Say was given a 10-month suspended sentence in April 2013 for “religious defamation”in connection with a series of tweets and retweets made in April 2012, including a verse attributed to the 12th Century Persian poet Omar Khayyam. The suspension was overturned, but the sentence was reimposed after a retrial on 20 September 2013. Say appealed, and In October 2015, the Supreme Court of Appeals ruled by a majority verdict that the tweets should be regarded as freedom of thought and expression and should not be punished. The final stage was the acceptance of the Supreme Court's ruling by the initial court.
‘PEN welcomes Fazil Say’s acquittal, though he should never have been convicted in the first place. This clearly demonstrates how Article 216 of the Turkish penal code, which criminalises blasphemy, can be used to unlawfully restrict freedom of expression and we call for it to be amended in line with Turkey's international human rights obligations,’ said Salil Tripathi, Chair of PEN International's Writers in Prison Committee.
Say was a featured case in 2013 for PEN International’s annual Day of the Imprisoned Writer, where the organisation called for the sentence against Say to be overturned and the charges dropped. His case was also mentioned in PEN's December 2015 report Surveillance, Secrecy and Self-Censorship: New Digital Freedom Challenges in Turkey.