Turkish court sentences singer, actress Olcay to 10 months in prison for ‘insulting Erdoğan’

Zuhal Olcay

Turkish singer and actress Zuhal Olcay has been sentenced to 10 months in prison for “insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan” by İstanbul’s 46th Criminal Court of Peace, according to a report by the Hürriyet Daily News on Thursday.

A case was filed against Olcay for “insulting” Erdoğan during a concert, with the prosecutor seeking a four-year prison sentence for the singer. The indictment prepared by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office stated that a person told the police that Olcay had made an insulting hand gesture against Erdoğan during the concert, which took place in the Kadıköy district of İstanbul on Aug. 5, 2016.

An investigation was subsequently launched and footage from the concert was examined by an expert, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported on Dec. 12, 2017. 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, 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 “hadn’t had any other 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 about her.

The prosecutor’s office had demanded a jail term for Olcay from one year, two months to four years, eight months on charges of “insulting the president.”

Gülsüm Ağaoğlu, a Kurdish politician and a member of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), has also been put in pre-trial detention for “insulting” President Erdogan during a Nevroz speech she delivered  in Tekirdag. According to a report by pro-government İhlas news agency, Ağaoğlu is also accused of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” during her speech.

Scores of people in Turkey have been detained or arrested or are under investigation on allegations of insulting President Erdoğan in social media posts. 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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