A Turkish pop singer accused of “inciting hatred and hostility” with a joke about the country’s religious schools has dismissed the charges on her first court appearance.
Singer-songwriter Gulsen was charged and briefly jailed over the joke she made during a concert in April when she quipped that one of her musicians’ “perversion” stemmed from attending a religious school.
The 46-year-old singer, whose full name is Gulsen Colakoglu, was kidnapped from her home in Istanbul in August after a video of the concert began circulating on social media with a hashtag calling for her arrest.
She was detained for five days and later spent 15 days under house arrest, despite apologizing for every offense she caused to graduates of a religious school.
Gulsen now faces up to three years in prison if found guilty of sedition charges.
In her testimony in court in Istanbul on Friday, Gülsen said she teased a band member who was nicknamed “Imam” but had not attended a religious school.
“It was just a joke between two people. It wasn’t a statement,” the newspaper Milliyet quoted the singer in court.
“I have not shown any attitude that would incite people to hatred and enmity.”
She added, “I did not target any third person, social class or section of society” as she called for an acquittal.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and many members of his Islamic ruling party are graduates of religious schools called Imam Hatip, originally established to train imams.
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A 48-page indictment against Gülsen included 702 complainants, including individuals, a pro-government women’s rights organization and a religious school association. Some of them withdrew their ads on Friday, Milliyet reported.
Turkey’s Penal Code criminalizes incitement to hatred and enmity against various groups in society based on class, race, religion or sect, and requires imprisonment in cases leading to a threat to public security.
Gulsen has previously been targeted by Islamic circles for her revealing stage outfits and for unfurling an LGBTQ flag at a concert.
The court on Friday lifted the obligation for them to report to a police station every week but maintained a ban on them leaving the country.
It adjourned the proceedings until December 21.
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/music/turkish-singer-appears-in-court-over-religious-schools-joke-42085177.html Turkish singer faces court for joke about religious school