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Turkish court hands down suspended sentence to singer on insult charges

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An İstanbul court hearing a retrial has handed down a suspended sentence of more than two years to singer Atilla Taş on conviction of insulting a public official and denigrating the police and the military, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported.

Known for his outspoken criticism of the Turkish government, Taş was retried after a previous conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court of Appeals. In that earlier trial, he was sentenced to more than three years’ imprisonment on terrorism-related charges due to his involvement in media outlets affiliated with the faith-based Gülen movement.

Following the appeals court’s ruling, prosecutors drafted a new indictment for Taş, this time seeking his conviction on insult charges.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-prime minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following an abortive putsch in 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

Following the coup attempt, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency during which nearly 200 media outlets were summarily shut down by executive decree-laws due to their purported ties to terrorism.

The post-coup crackdown also saw the imprisonment of scores of journalists and media workers due to their professional activities, which led rights groups to describe Turkey as the second worst jailer of journalists after China.

Turkey is ranked 165th out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ latest press freedom index.

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