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Turkish singer removed from house arrest, put on judicial probation for religious schools remark

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A Turkish court has decided to reverse a decision for house arrest imposed on a famous pop singer due to a remark about religious schools and put the singer on judicial probation accompanied by a travel ban, local media reported.

Singer Gülşen Bayraktar Çolakoğlu, 46, who goes by the stage name “Gülşen,” was jailed on Aug. 25 on charges of “inciting hatred” with a quip about religious schools. She was released from pretrial detention on Aug. 29 and placed under house arrest.

Lawyer Celal Ülgen, who spoke to Tele 1 TV on Monday, said the İstanbul 7th High Criminal Court decided to remove the singer from house arrest but put her on judicial probation, which includes a travel ban and checking in at a police station weekly.

The lawyer said the imposition of judicial probation on the singer is still a harsh punishment because she will be unable to give concerts abroad.

Ülgen said the measures should also be lifted because they are disproportionate with the alleged crime she committed.

Prosecutors are seeking a prison sentence of up to three years for Gülşen on charges of inciting hatred and enmity among the public with her remarks.

Although the singer made the joke on stage in April, it went viral on social media after being re-posted by a pro-government daily in August.

Top members of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Islamic-rooted party then voiced moral outrage, turning her joke into another divisive issue roiling the polarized country 10 months before Turks go to the polls.

The 48-page indictment drafted by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has 702 complainants, including the pro-government women’s rights organization KADEM, a religious school association and Industry and Technology Minister Mustafa Varank.

Turkey’s penal code criminalizes the incitement of hatred and enmity towards various groups in society based on class, race, religion or sect, requiring a prison sentence in cases that lead to threats to public safety.

Gülşen had quipped that her guitarist’s “perversion” was rooted in his attendance at an imam-hatip school, which specializes in religious education combined with a modern curriculum.

Most imam-hatip schools were closed after the 1997 ousting of an Islamic-rooted government by the military.

Their number began to grow when Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002. Erdoğan is a graduate of an imam-hatip school.

Turkey is a predominantly Muslim but officially secular state.

Erdoğan has often said his goal was to raise “pious generations.”

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