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Travel ban remains in place for pop singer on trial for religious school remark

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A Turkish court has ruled to keep in place a travel ban imposed on a famous pop singer standing trial on charges of incitement of hatred due to her remarks about religious schools, the Turkish 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 for 15 days.

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, leading to criminal charges being filed against her for inciting hatred and enmity among the public.

Gülşen, who faces a prison sentence of up to three years, appeared at the first hearing of her trial in an İstanbul court on Friday. The court decided to remove the judicial probation measures, which required the singer to check in at a police station weekly, but kept the travel ban in place, although the singer had requested its removal because she can’t see her son, who is in Spain, or give concerts abroad.

There were 10 co-plaintiffs in the courtroom who had filed charges against the singer as well as main opposition party lawmaker Mahmut Tanal, who came to support to Gülşen and observe the trial.

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.

The pop singer said during Friday’s hearing that she believes she will be acquitted of the charges because she did not incite hatred or enmity toward a group in the public and that what she said was only a joke.

Gülşen said her remarks were manipulated and that she was also subjected to a “lynching” campaign over her stage costumes, lifestyle, motherhood and womanhood.

She said the most saddening part of the entire process is that she can’t visit with her son in Spain due to the travel ban.

“My child is in Spain and I can’t be by his side. I don’t want my child to go through more trauma. He is deprived of me and I am deprived of him,” she said.

Gülşen also said the judicial process financially affected not only her but dozens of other people who work on organizing her concerts since more than 50 had to be cancelled and she is unable to plan new ones.

The court rejected Gülşen’s request for her acquittal and adjourned the trial until Dec. 21.

Gülşen emerged in the 1990s, with her first video clip featuring her in pajamas. But with time her songs and videos became more risqué and overtly sexual.

This year, she dedicated her Elle Style “icon of the year” award to the LGBTQ movement.

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