ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A Turkish court on Monday released pop star Gulsen from prison but placed her under house arrest as she awaits trial on charges of “inciting hatred and enmity” over a joke that she made on the religious schools of Turkey.
Last week, the 46-year-old singer and songwriter, whose full name is Gulsen Colakoglu, was taken from her home in Istanbul for questioning and was arrested and jailed pending trial. His arrest sparked outrage on social media and heightened concerns about Turkey’s judiciary, whose independence has been questioned by opposition parties.
The charges were based on a joke the singer made at a concert in April, where she joked that one of her musicians’ “perversion” stemmed from attending a religious school.
Acting at the request of Gulsen’s lawyer, an Istanbul court released her from prison on the condition that she does not leave her home, state-run Anadolu news agency reported. The court cited the fact that the singer has a small dependent child, is not a flight risk and is unlikely to tamper with evidence, the agency said.
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Gulsen’s lawyer, Emek Emre, said he welcomed the fact that Gulsen would “spend the night at her house with her child”, but said he would also seek her release from house arrest.
Government critics said the singer’s arrest was an effort by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to shore up support from his religious and conservative supporters ahead of next year’s election.
The singer had previously become a target in Islamic circles due to her revealing stage outfits and for unfurling an LGBTQ flag at a concert. A video of the singer’s comment on religious schools began circulating on social media recently, with a hashtag calling for her arrest.
Erdogan and many members of his Islam-based ruling party are graduates of religious schools, which were originally established to train imams. The number of religious schools in Turkey has increased under Erdogan, who has promised to raise a “pious generation”.
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