Turkish-Armenian Writer Given Jail Sentence For Blasphemy

Sevan Nisanyan

ISTANBUL (Reuters)—An Istanbul court has sentenced a Turkish-Armenian author and blogger to more than a year in prison for insulting the Prophet Mohammad, local media reported on Wednesday, weeks after a similar case caused alarm among secularists.

Sevan Nisanyan, who has authored several books and who runs a blog on what he describes as “history, religion and a (little) politics”, posted a link to the offending blog on his Twitter account following the ruling.

The accompanying message read: “Let’s share the article that brought a sentence of 13.5 months from the Istanbul 10th Criminal Court for insulting religious bla bla bla.”

Just over a month ago, world-renowned concert pianist Fazil Say was handed a suspended jail sentence for insulting religious values on Twitter, including one tweet poking fun at a muezzin, someone who makes the Muslim call to prayer.

Say’s sentence stirred passions about the role religion should play in Turkish public life and highlighted how much has changed since Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party, which has roots in Islamist politics, swept to power a decade ago.

Erdogan’s AK Party has witnessed unprecedented prosperity and is admired among Western allies keen to portray NATO member Turkey as a beacon of political stability in a troubled region.

But Erdogan’s opponents have increasingly accused him of posing a threat to the modern, secular republic founded by Kemal Ataturk on the ruins of the Ottoman empire 90 years ago.

They also say a judiciary once renowned for defending the secular republic against Islamist influence now finds itself answering to religious conservatives.

Nisanyan was sentenced to one year and 45 days for a blog post last year entitled “Hate speech needs to be combatted” in which he wrote:

“It is not hate speech to make fun of an Arab leader who claimed he had contacted Allah hundreds of years ago and received political, financial and sexual benefits accordingly.

“It is a test of freedom of expression at an almost kindergarten-level.”

Media reported that the sentence could not be converted to a financial penalty but that Nisanyan had a right to appeal. The court could not be immediately reached for comment.


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  1. Satenik said:

    I thought Turkey is a “secular” country or that’s what they claim to be when they go cap in hand hoping against hope to become a EU member! EU take note! Don’t just sleepwalk into believing what Turkey says!

  2. kevork halablian said:

    armenians shouldnt live in turkey especially istanbul when ottoman troops conquerred city the sultan bring armenians from anatolia to istanbul for priceless make bulding for turks this insulting us please dear armenians in istanbul if yours have armenian honor please leave that city move armenia or europe,western,south america

  3. Alex Postallian said:

    Let us be correct in conotation of desciption…..He is a Armenian writer living in the turkish sewer,not turkish Armenian.There is no turkish Armenian.

  4. Robert Davidian said:

    The Turkish people I know are wonderful and intelligent. This F-ed up Turkish government is walking dangerously backwards in TIME towards the stone age with this ridiculous ruling. We can write any words anytime anywhere with any frequency in all modern-thinking free countries…BECAUSE…they are just WORDS! These ignorant paranoid stone age fossils in the Turkish government are dead wrong, and the good people of Turkey are realizing it, challenging it and will eventually overthrow it! The good people of Turkey will pull their ignorant government into the 21st century soon!

    • Alex Postallian said:

      Naivete’ at its supreme levels–What about the ninety nine percent,WHO ARE NOT.You make excuses,I dont.Their past history of inhuman,animal behavior toward a gentile Armenian People,is proof positive in your childish remarks.I hold them accountable……..Azbarez,if does not meet your two-way door.LET THE COMMENT REMAIN

  5. Tessa Hofmann said:

    But Western commentators/”experts” continue to believe that Turkey is a secular state…

  6. Garo Yeghichian said:

    Sevan Nisanian has sentenced in Istanboul only because his background is Armenian and every body now`s.

  7. Pingback: Escritor e blogueiro armênio é condenado na Turquia. - Estação Armênia - Agência Literária Ag2

  8. ronnie said:

    don’t worry in 13 month you will be a hero to all of us!
    best wishes! god bless you!

  9. islamsux said:

    turkey and the rest of the muslim world IS at a kindergarten-level!

  10. GB said:

    I hope the Midnight Express jail house does not exist in Turkey!!

  11. Avo Nabandian said:

    According to Western standards this ruling is a clear failure to protect the freedom of speech of an individual. However, let us not forget that this was a Turkish ruling inside Turkey by a Turkish judge and under Turkish laws. In addition, this is a ruling against an Armenian living in Turkey.
    On the flip side, if we had a Turk living in Armenia, which we do not, and uttered statements with a similar substance, an Armenian judge would have reacted the same was to say the least.