İstanbul court gives Turkish actress suspended sentence for allegedly insulting Erdoğan

Zuhal Olcay

An İstanbul regional court on Thursday handed down a suspended sentence of 11 months, 20 days to Turkish singer and actress Zuhal Olcay for allegedly insulting Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The higher court first reversed a decision to sentence Olcay to 10 months in prison, previously decided by the 46th Criminal Court of Peace, and increased the sentence to one year, two months before reducing the sentence for good behaviour, according to a report by the Hürriyet Daily News.

The report said that despite Olcay’s request for a fine instead of a prison sentence, she received the jail term as the court ruled she had “purposefully insulted the president.” The performer’s jail sentence was suspended, and Olcay was put on one year, six months of judicial probation.

A lawsuit was filed against Olcay for “insulting” Erdoğan during a concert last year, with the prosecutor seeking a four-year prison sentence for the singer.

The indictment drafted by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office said a citizen told police Olcay had made an insulting hand gesture in reference to Erdoğan during a concert in the Kadıköy district of İstanbul on Aug. 5, 2016. An investigation was subsequently launched, and footage from the concert was examined, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Dec. 12, 2017.

Olcay was also 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, it’s all empty, it’s all a lie. Life will end one day and you’ll say ‘I had a dream’.”

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

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