Pianist Fazil Say Under Investigation for Twitter Messages

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The Istanbul prosecutor's office has launched an investigation against the Turkish pianist Fazil Say over statements he made on Twitter about Islam and Islamic values.

The prosecutor's office has said that Say also made offensive remarks about Christianity and Judaism, statements which may violate Turkish law forbidding the incitement of hatred towards another religious, social or ethnic group, reports the National Turk. If found guilty, the pianist could face up to three years in prison.

It is not clear yet if charges will be brought against Say but the case has elicited strong reactions in the Turkish news media and raised concerns over freedom of speech.

Say, who is scheduled to perform at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Friday, did not respond to requests for comment about the investigation.

The 42-year-old Say is known as an outspoken, irreverent personality, both on and off stage, and is a self-described atheist. One of the Tweets he reportedly sent out questioned whether heaven in the Islamic faith is "like a brothel or pub," according to a report in Today's Zaman.

The pianist later removed the tweets from his account. He has since mounted a defense of free speech on his Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Say was named a cultural ambassador by the European Union in 2008.