Turkish court sentences pop star Gülşen to 10 months in prison over joke about Islamic Imam Hatip schools

A Turkish court has sentenced pop star Gülşen to 10 months in prison over the charges of "incitement to hatred and hostility" for a joke she made about Islamic Imam Hatip schools.

Reuters - Duvar English

A Turkish court handed pop star Gülşen a suspended sentence of 10 months in prison for "incitement to hatred and hostility" over a remark she made on stage about religious schools, state-owned Anadolu Agency reported on May 3.

The singer-songwriter, whose full name is Gülşen Çolakoğlu, was briefly jailed last year in August after a video of her comments from four months earlier surfaced on a website of a pro-government newspaper a day earlier.

"He studied at an Imam Hatip (school) previously. That's where his perversion comes from," Gülşen says in a light-hearted manner in the video, referring to a musician in her band.

She had said she had made a joke with colleagues during an April performance and apologised to anyone offended, adding her words were seized upon by some to polarise society.

She was released several days later, after being arrested on a charge of incitement to hatred.

Her arrest had sparked outrage, with critics saying that she was targeted for her support for LGBT+ rights and liberal views that go against President Tayyip Erdoğan's Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP).

An Istanbul court on May 3 handed Gülşen a suspended sentence of 10 months in prison, Anadolu reported. The suspended sentence means that Gülşen will not serve prison time unless she is not convicted of another charge again within five years.

Erdoğan, whose AKP first came to power nearly two decades ago, himself studied at one of the country's first Imam Hatip schools, religious institutions which were founded by the state to educate young men to be imams and preachers.

The sentence stirred a huge reaction on social media, as people pointed out that a joke can be sentenced to prison while President Erdoğan granting amnesty for a man sentenced to aggravated life in prison over being terrorist organization Hizbollah's "military wing officer" on the same day.

Erdoğan on May 3 granted amnesty for Mehmet Emin Alpsoy due to his age. In 2000, Alpsoy admitted in the court that he was a member of the Hizbullah organization between 1990-1996, but claimed that he did not participate in its actions. After he tortured and killed three people in the capital Ankara, he hid the corpses in the basement of his brother's house, the daily Evrensel reported.

The move came after the AKP and Islamist Free Cause Party (HÜDA-PAR) became allies for the upcoming elections. In December 2012, some of Hizbullah members formed the HÜDA-PAR with the government's support, which allowed the party to enter politics.