Famous Turkish singer, actress Zuhal Olcay sued over alleged insult to President Erdoğan

Zuhal Olcay

A lawsuit has been filed against famous Turkish singer, actress Zuhal Olcay for “insulting” Turkish autocratic Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during a concert last year, with the prosecutor seeking a four-year prison sentence for her.

The indictment prepared by the İstanbul-Anadolu Chief Prosecutor’s Office stated that a person told the police that Olcay had made an insulting hand gesture against Erdoğan during a concert in the Kadıköy district of İstanbul on August 5, 2016. An investigation was subsequently launched and footage from the concert was examined by an expert, state-run Anadolu Agency reported on Tuesday.

Olcay is accused of revising lyrics to the song “Boş Vermişim Dünyayı” (I Let Go of the World) to criticize Erdoğan, devising a hand-gesture to accompany the melody. According to the footage, the revised lyrics say: “Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, all of them are null and lies, this life will end one day and you will say I had a dream.”

In her testimony Olcay reportedly said she revised the lyrics because the president’s name fitted the rhyme scheme and she “did not have any other ulterior, insulting motive.” The singer also said the hand gesture targeted an audience member in the front row after he or she made a negative comment about her.

The prosecutor’s office has demanded a jail term for Olcay ranging from one year and two months to four years and eight months on charges of “insulting the president.” The indictment has been approved by the 46th Criminal Court of Peace and the singer will soon face a trial on the charges.

Thousands of people in Turkey under investigations and most of them are under the threat of imprisonment over their alleged insults to President Erdoğan. The insult cases generally stem from social media posts shared by Erdoğan opponents. Turkish police and judiciary have perceived any tiny criticism targeting Erdoğan and his government as “insult.”

As of the end of 2016, at least 10,000 people were under investigation on suspicion of terrorist propaganda and insulting senior state officials on social media. A total of 1,080 people were convicted of insulting Erdoğan in 2016, according to data from Turkey’s Justice Ministry. Data also showed that 4,936 cases were launched against people on charges of insult in 2016.

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