Turkish Blogger Sentenced to 13 Months in Prison for Criticizing Mohammed

Hurriyet Daily News reported last week:

An Istanbul court has sentenced Turkish-Armenian writer Sevan Nişanyan to 58 weeks in prison for an alleged insult to the Prophet Muhammad in a blog post.

The prosecutor had been seeking one and a half years of jail time for Nişanyan on charges of “insulting the religious beliefs held by a section of the society.” …

Nişanyan was convicted of writing, in reference the controversy over the “Innocence of Muslims” video:

Making fun of an Arab leader who claimed he contacted Allah hundreds of years ago and received political, financial and sexual benefits is not hate speech. It is an almost kindergarten-level test of what is called freedom of expression.

Here, according to a site that appears to be Nişanyan’s own, is a statement that Nişanyan made to the court during the trial:

This person named Muhammed has claimed to have established communication with the Maker of the Universe — God forgive my sins — and to have received a book from Her. This, in my conscience and belief, is blasphemy of the worst kind. Yet I do not bring a legal complaint against this person. For everyone has the right to believe in whatever silliness they wish and to take for truth whatever superstition they choose, so long as they do not violate the rights of others.

In consequence of his claim to have established contact with Deity, this Muhammed, who was a lowly merchant, acquired political dominion over all Arabia and gained the financial means to raise 30-thousand-strong armies. Again as a result of his claim to “Prophethood”, we learn from canonical Islamic sources that he acquired a total of at least eleven wives and two unwed concubines. In other words, it is an incontrovertible historical fact that this person made political, economic and sexual profit from his alleged contact with Deity. Now, profiting is not a crime, nor is it always a morally reprehensible act. To state that this person profited from claiming “prophethood” does not constitute an imputation of crime or even of immorality. It is merely a statement of historic fact.

Nevertheless I did not make that statement of fact in my article, considering it might be distasteful to some people. I carefully avoided any statement of the type “Muhammed was this and that”. I simply argued that, IF someone wished to make such a statement of fact it would be their most natural right to do so, and that this right should be protected by public hand against violation by hostile individuals or groups.

I believe that only an ignorant person devoid of the most basic notion of law would argue the contrary.

Telling the historical or legal truth may sometimes be hurtful to the sensitivities, or prejudices, of some people. This is regrettable. Yet I don’t think it would be possible, in a civilized legal system, to derive a legal injury or right from this fact. Nor do I think that there is any public benefit in tying the right to tell the facts to the precondition to heed the fine sensibilities of this or that group.

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