Top judicial body says judiciary is independent after public outcry over pop star Gülşen's arrest

Following the public outcry over the arrest of popstar Gülşen for her comments about Islamic Imam Hatip schools, Turkey's top judicial body HSK has issued a statement arguing that the judiciary is independent. The HSK has also described the criticism against the singer's arrest as "actions and rhetoric that orders and gives instructions to judges."

Duvar English 

The Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) on Aug. 26 said in a statement that “it is a constitutional obligation to avoid all kinds of actions and rhetoric that orders and gives instructions to judges.”

The statement came after the public outcry against the famous popstar Gülşen Bayraktar Çolakoğlu’s arrest on Aug. 25 for her comments from four months ago about Islamic Imam Hatip schools over charges of “inciting hatred and hostility among the public.”

In a video circulated online, Gülşen is heard saying during a concert from April: “He had studied at an Imam Hatip school. That is where his perversion comes from.” 

In a message shared on her social media account later, the singer apologized for her remarks. She said that the comment was a joke in reference to a musician in her band.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, whose Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) first came to power some 20 years ago, himself studied at one of the country's first Imam Hatip schools, which were founded by the state to educate young men to be imams and preachers.

Thousands on social media spoke out in support of Gülşen, saying she was being targeted for her liberal views and support for LGBT+ rights, and demanded her immediate release.

After thousands of supporting messages, the HSK released a statement, saying judges are independent in their duties and give their verdicts according to their conscience in accordance with the Constitution and the law. 

“No authority or person may give orders or instructions to courts and judges in the exercise of judicial power, cannot make recommendations or suggestions. No questions may be asked or no statements can be made regarding the exercise of jurisdiction in the assembly on a pending case,” the statement said.

"I think she is under arrest because she is a figure representing secular Turkey and an artist sensitive to giving support to the LGBTI movement," said Veysel Ok, a lawyer and co-director of the Media and Law Studies Association.

"I think they were looking for an excuse to arrest her and found it with the quip four months ago," he told Reuters in an interview in his Istanbul office.

In a rare move, several staunchly pro-government columnists criticized Gülşen’s arrest.

"Are we going to jail pending trial anyone who speaks nonsense? Let society dole out her punishment," said Mehmet Barlas in his column in the daily Sabah.

Another pro-government columnist Abdurrahman Dilipak said that Gülşen was arrested for supporting LGBT+ groups and that prosecutors should be concerned about "much bigger crimes" like drug trafficking, bribes, corruptions and profiteering.

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), said the arrest was aimed at polarising society to keep the AKP in power.

"I am speaking to the youth, this unjust order is coming to an end. They are trying to rule this country by provoking and dividing you. You will play a big role in the upcoming election. It's up to you to stick together against provocations," he said in a tweet.

"Our legal system, which ignores those who corrupt, thieves, those who break the law and slaughter nature, those who kill animals, those who use religion and polarize the society, arrests Gülşen immediately," megastar Tarkan said, demanding her release.

The lawyer Ok said that Gülşen's arrest shows that the country's judiciary is not independent, also in reference to the imprisonment of philanthropist Osman Kavala, pro-Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtaş, and many other politicians and journalists over recent years.

"The Gülşen case has shown again that the Turkish judiciary is the biggest weapon of the government," he said. "It makes you feel that if you live in a way other than that of those in power your life and freedom is in danger."