Turkish prosecutors seek three years in jail for popstar Gülşen

Turkish prosecutors are seeking up to three years in jail for popstar Gülşen Bayraktar Çolakoğlu accusing her of inciting hatred and division in society.

In the indictment prepared by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office, 702 institutions and individuals were listed as "complainants” including Industry and Technology Minister Mustafa Varank.

Turkish police detained Çolakoğlu, known as Gülşen, on Aug. 25 for remarks allegedly insulting the graduates of the country’s religious Imam Hatip schools. The 46-year-old songwriter referred to the schools as causing “perversion” when making a joke about a fellow performer at an April concert. She was later released.

Gülşen, who has apologised for her comment, will appear before the Istanbul Criminal Court of First Instance in the coming days should the indictment be accepted by the presiding judge, local media including the Cumhuriyet newspaper reported.

Turkey’s Imam Hatip schools, of which President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is a graduate, focus on religious subjects, including the Qur’an, the Sunnah, and the teachings of Prophet Muhammed, among other Islamic and regular studies. Originally an institution to train imams, the number of the schools has more than tripled since 2014 to over 3,000 under Erdoğan’s plans to raise a “pious generation.” Many regular high schools have been turned into Imam Hatips, provoking protest from the parents of some children.

"The suspect's words and statements contain provocative and hostile attitudes and behaviours, are far from contributing to the development of society, are merely inciting the public to hatred and enmity, and have discriminatory and other characteristics leading to hatred and enmity against the other part of the society that necessitates discrimination,” the indictment read.

Many of Erdoğan’s secular opponents accuse him of seeking to undercut Turkey’s founding secular principles and of seeking to turn Turkey into a state and country ruled by Islamic principles. He and his governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) have denied the charges. Turkey’s Constitutional Court shut down a predecessor of the AKP on the same grounds.

The European Union and the United States have expressed serious concerns over the erosion of freedom of expression in Turkey in recent years, especially since the introduction of a full presidential system of government in 2018.

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