Pianist on trial in Turkey for insulting Islam

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A leading Turkish pianist and composer appeared in court yesterday accused of offending Muslims and insulting Islam in comments he made on Twitter.

Fazil Say, who has played with the New York Philharmonic, the Berlin Symphony Orchestra and others, is on trial for sending tweets including one that joked about a call to prayer that lasted 22 seconds. Mr Say tweeted: "Why such haste? Have you got a mistress waiting or a raki on the table?" Raki is a traditional alcoholic drink. Islam forbids alcohol and many Islamists consider the remarks unacceptable.

In June Mr Say was charged with inciting hatred and public enmity, and with insulting "religious values". He faces up to 18 months in prison. Mr Say denies the charges.

The trial was adjourned until 18 February and the musician was granted the right not to appear at subsequent court hearings due to his concert schedules.

The prosecution has caused anger among intellectuals in Turkey and escalated concerns over freedom of expression in the country. Hundreds of his fans, supporters and human rights activists went to the courthouse in Istanbul in a show of solidarity, holding up signs that read "Fazil Say is not alone" and "Free Art, Free World".