ISTANBUL — Turkish-Armenian writer and linguist Sevan Nisanyan received a two-year jail sentence over charges related to an illegal construction in Izmir’s Sirince village, where he lives.
A Turkish court also found Nisanyan guilty of”publicly insulting the religious values of part of the population”. In a 2012 post he wrote about “Innocence of Muslims,” which sparked protests across the Arab world. He was sentenced to one year and 45 days in prison, higher than the usual nine months, because the offense was committed through the press.
Nisanyan accused the court of issuing a politically-motivated verdict. In a country littered with illegal constructions, Nisanyan said the court ruling on Dec. 12 was punishment for his outspoken views about restrictions on freedom of expression in Turkey.
“It is politically motivated because in this community, those who try to be an individuals and stand firm on their ideas have always been punished,” he told Agence France-Presse.
The 56-year old is one of the leading linguists of Turkey, and he helped turn the village of Sirince into a booming holiday spot after he bought several ruined Greek houses and turned them into hotels.
Nisanyan’s conviction over his September 2012 blog post defending the anti-Islam film that ridiculed the Prophet Muhammad had sparked outrage among right groups.
“Mocking an Arab leader who centuries ago claimed to have contacted God and made political, financial and sexual benefits out of this is not a crime of hatred. It is an almost kindergarten-level test of what is called freedom of expression,” Nisanyan had written.
Prosecutors accused him of “overstepping the boundaries of freedom of speech and criticism” and said his article served to “disturb public order.”
“When I attacked the Islamist establishment they felt I overstepped my boundaries,” Nisanyan told CNN. “Here I am an Armenian doing something no Armenian has done in a Muslim country. This is really the height of boldness, of impudence. This is something you are not supposed to do.”
Turkey has long been criticized for a lack of press freedom and dozens of journalists are in detention, accused of plotting against the Islamist-rooted government or having links with outlawed movements such as the Kurdish rebels.