Turkish singer moved from house arrest to judicial probation over religious schools joke

A Turkish court has reversed a decision for house arrest on pop singer Gülşen Bayraktar Çolakoğlu, over a joke on religious schools, placing the artist on judicial probation and a travel ban, Cumhuriyet newspaper reported on Monday.

The musical chart-topping songwriter, widely known as Gülşen, was jailed on August 25 pending trial on charges of "inciting or insulting the public to hatred and enmity" after she made a joke about religious schools attended by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The 46-year-old was released by an Istanbul court on August 29 on the condition of "not leaving the residence" after her lawyers appealed her arrest.

An Istanbul court has decided to lift the singer’s house arrest,  Cumhuriyet said, citing her lawyer Celal Ülgen, placing her judicial probation involving a travel ban and weekly reporting in to a police station.

The judicial probation is a disproportionate punishment as it prevents the artist from holding concerts abroad, according to Ülgen, who added the measures were extreme given the alleged crime Gülşen committed. 

Gülşen is facing up to three years in prison over her remarks in an April concert linking Turkey’s Imam Hatip schools to  “perversion.” Footage of the remarks in question went viral on Turkish social media last month, with the hashtag #GülşenTutuklansın (Arrest Gülşen) on Twitter, with the artist being taken into custody shortly thereafter.

Her arrest caused a wave of reaction in the country, including form celebrities, cultural figures and fans, who have accused the Turkish government of using the artist’s arrest as a means to appease the country’s conservative demographic ahead of the elections scheduled for 2023.

Turkey’s Imam Hatip schools, of which President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is a graduate, focus on religious subjects, including the Qur’an and the Sunnah, teachings of Prophet Muhammad, among other Islamic studies.

Originally an institution to train imams, the schools have become increasingly popular among the public and increased in number over the past two decades under the rule of Erdoğan, who has long maintained a goal of raising a “pious generation.”

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