Ankara - An Istanbul court on Friday cancelled the conviction of pianist Fazil Say, who was earlier this month sentenced for blasphemy over posts on social media, and accepted his request for a retrial, the state-run Anatolia news agency reported.

Say, a world-renowned pianist, was on April 15 handed a 10-month suspended jail term for insulting religious values, in a ruling that drew international criticism of Turkey's freedom of expression record.

The higher Istanbul court overturned the verdict due to “procedural flaws,” including the fact that the pianist was not able to appeal the initial sentence.

A date for a new hearing has not yet been set, Anatolia said.

The 43-year-old virtuoso, who has played with the philharmonic orchestras of Berlin, New York, Tokyo and Israel, was charged with inciting religious hatred and insulting Islamic values in a series of tweets he posted last year.

In one of them Say said: “I am not sure if you have also realised it, but all the pricks, low-lives, buffoons, thieves, jesters, they are all Allahists. Is this a paradox?”

The case stoked fears of growing restrictions on freedom of expression in a country which has long sought to join the European Union. - Sapa-AFP