TURKISH-ARMENIAN WRITER TO BE SENT TO JAIL AFTER LOSING APPEAL IN ILLEGAL CONSTRUCTION TRIAL

Hurriyet Daily News, Turkey
Dec 13 2013

ISTANBUL - Agence France-Presse

Sevan Ni┼~_anyan during the opening of a rock-cut tomb near ┼~^irince,
in ─░zmir province, last year. Ni┼~_anyan accused the court of issuing
a 'politically-motivated' verdict. DHA photo

The Supreme Court of Appeals on Dec. 12 approved the two year jail
sentence given to the Turkish-Armenian writer and linguist Sevan
Ni┼~_anyan, charging illegal construction in ─░zmir's ┼~^irince
village, where he lives.

Ni┼~_anyan also faces a 13.5-month prison sentence pending appeal
after being sentenced last May by an Istanbul court for alleged
blasphemy in a blog post supporting the controversial anti-Islam film
"Innocence of Muslims."

Nisanyan, who accused the court of issuing a "politically-motivated"
verdict, said Dec. 13 he would be sent to jail next week.

In a country littered with illegal construction, he said the court
ruling on Dec. 12 was punishment for his outspoken views about the
restrictions on freedom of expression in Turkey.

"It is politically motivated because in this community, those who
try to be an individual and stand firm on their ideas have always
been punished," Ni┼~_anyan told AFP.

The 56-year old is one of the leading linguists of Turkey. He turned
┼~^irince into a booming holiday spot after he bought several ruined
Greek houses and turned them into hotels.

Thousands of people from around the world flocked to ┼~^irince in
December 2012, believing the village - where many Christians say
the Virgin Mary ascended to heaven - would be spared from the Mayan
doomsday.

Ni┼~_anyan's conviction over his September 2012 blog post defending
the anti-Islam film that ridiculed the Prophet Mohammed 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," Ni┼~_anyan wrote. "It is an almost kindergarten-level
test of what is called freedom of expression," he added.

His words touched a nerve in the country and he received hundreds of
death threats after the court decision.

On May 22, the day of the sentencing, Ni┼~_anyan retweeted his
blog post, writing, "Let's share the article that was sentenced to
13-and-a-half months at the Istanbul 10th Criminal Court for insulting
religious bla-bla."

Ni┼~_ayan's blasphemy sentence cannot be converted to a financial
penalty because of a previous conviction.

December/13/2013