Man Gets Sentenced to Prison for Blogging About Prophet Muhammad

Sevan Nisanyan
Image: Sevan Nisanyan

An Istanbul court sentences Turkish-Armenian Sevan Nişanyan to more than a year in prison; the day after, the blogger vowed to appeal.

Sevan Nisanyan accused Turkey's government of political persecution, saying in a CNN phone interview that it appears that the government may have felt that he overstepped boundaries after publicly attacking the Islamist establishment. For Nisanyan, a human rights activist, and a member of the country's tiny Armenian ethnic minority, things may have gotten worse because no Armenian in a Muslim country has ever done what he did, making his actions seem impudent.

Turkey's Anatolian Agency stated that Nisanyan was sentenced to one year and 45 days in prison because he has openly vilified the religious values that are shared by a portion of the population. Turkey is a country where majority of the population practices Islam. Ninsanyan's jail sentence was originally a 9-month jail sentence but according to Anatolian, the crime was committed publicly, which is why the sentence was extended.

According to Nisanyan, the Istanbul court cited a passage in a blog published on September 2012, referring to the worldwide uproar brought by the "Innocence of Muslims.", a cheaply made Hollywood film showcasing anti-Islamist sentiments. The film poked fun at Prophet Mohammed, the most revered figured in the religion. The prime minister denounced the film, saying that it is "Islamophobic".

Nisanyan published the passage in question in English. The passage essentially states that it should not be a hate crime to ridicule a leader who have, hundreds of years ago, claimed that he can talk with a god, and then proceeded to profit politically, sexually and economically from that. The blogger insists that his speaking out is just freedom of expression, plain and simple.

Since the publication of the blog post, Nisanyan claimed that prosecutors have already taken him to three separate courts across the country.

Nisanyan did not get help from an attorney and he represented himself at Istanbul's criminal court. He acknowledged that in his statement to the court, he did take a confrontational approach, saying that no one should be put on trial just for discussing a religious figure's historical background.

Nisanyan insisted that it is an indisputable fact that Muhammed was a lowly merchant who acquired political power and the means to fund a considerable army, and profited sexually because of claiming that he has established contact with a god.

In the CNN interview, Nisanyan acknowledged that what he said may make things worse, but that his actions were deliberate.

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