Blasphemy pianist to be retried

 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.

FILE - In this Jan. 31, 2009 file photo, Turkish pianist Fazil Say, center, stands during a performance at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, Pool-File). Credit: AP

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