Erdoğan entertains U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham at Fazıl Say concert

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has taken up the invitation of one of his country’s greatest pianists and composers, Fazıl Say, to attend his concert on Friday, less than four years after the musician's jail sentence for insulting Islam was overturned.

The world-famous pianist thanked Erdoğan for attending his concert at the ATO Congresium in Ankara before performing his new composition, “Trojan Sonata”, to a packed audience.

Erdoğan’s wife Emine Erdoğan was also in attendance, as was a special guest of the president’s, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, who travelled to Turkey on Friday to discuss the ongoing situation in Syria. Turkey is pushing for the United States to go through with the withdrawal of troops announced by U.S. President Donald Trump in December.

Say had been a vocal critic of Erdoğan’s government’s policies, and was handed a 10-month suspended jail sentence for insulting Islam in 2013 after publishing posts on Twitter that were deemed blasphemous for criticising the Islamic conception of the afterlife. His sentence was overturned by the Supreme Court of Appeals in 2015.

The pianist’s relations with the government warmed in August last year, when Erdoğan phoned Say to offer his condolences for the death of his mother.

Say later expressed his appreciation for what he described as a sincere gesture by the president, and reportedly invited Erdoğan to the January 18 concert.

As he took the stage before a capacity crowd and the extensive security in place for the state visitors, Say said tickets for the event had sold out three months before the concert.

“I think I’m experiencing one of the exceptional nights of my life,” the pianist said.

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