Turkish singer Gulsen arrested after religious schools quip -media

By Thomson Reuters Aug 25, 2022 | 2:42 PM

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish pop star Gulsen was arrested on Thursday after an Istanbul prosecutor opened an investigation into charges of “inciting people to hatred and hostility” after a remark she made on stage about religious schools, local media reported.

The singer-songwriter, whose full name is Gulsen Bayraktar Cobanoglu, said on Twitter 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.

Hurriyet newspaper and other media reported the Istanbul chief prosecutor’s office launched the probe, and that the education ministry condemned the comments and opened its own legal process.

DHA news agency reported Gulsen gave a statement to Istanbul police, was transferred to a court and later arrested.

The number of Imam Hatip religious schools have risen sharply under President Tayyip Erdogan, whose ruling AK Party is rooted in political Islam and who has overturned decades-old restrictions on religion in the country, irking secularists.

Critics say he has bent the courts to his will to crack down on dissent and free expression, charges the government denies.

The state-run Diyanet organisation, or Religious Affairs Directorate, has seen its budget and public influence grow in recent years, prompting charges that Erdogan is using religion to boost his ratings ahead of tight elections set for next year.

(Reporting by Jonathan Spicer and Ece Toksabay; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)