Türkşad Kunthan Uçuk, the prosecutor who demanded the arrest of Turkish popstar Gülşen, previously brought charges against journalists Sedef Kabaş and Hayri Tunç, news website Diken reported.
Uçuk, from the Press Crimes Investigation Bureau in the Istanbul chief public prosecutor’s office, brought charges of incitement to hatred and animosity against the singer, who was seen joking about religious schools in a video that surfaced earlier in the week.
“He studied in an imam-hatip school. That’s where his deviance comes from,” Gülşen said in jest about one of her fellow musicians on stage during a show in April, referencing Turkey’s Islamic high schools.
The video surfaced on Wednesday, accompanied by a conservative-led campaign for the singer’s arrest over insulting the religious schools. She was taken into custody on Wednesday night, and a judge ruled for her remand in prison until her case is heard.
Gülşen has been targeted by similar groups in the past over her support for the LGBT community and her elaborate but revealing stage costumes.
Incitement to hatred charges have long ailed those who don’t subscribe to majority-held beliefs in the country, as well as outspoken critics of government or state policies.
Journalist Hayri Tunç faced the same charge, brought by the same prosecutor, in June this year, based on his 2017 tweets about a massacre committed in 1978 in Turkey. Tunç had shared a video from an interview with a survivor of the Maraş Massacre that targeted a religious minority.
Earlier in January, prosecutor Uçuk brought charges of insulting the president against another journalist, Sedef Kabaş, who said during a live broadcast, “An ox in a palace doesn’t make it king, it makes the palace a sty.”
The prosecutor also ordered an investigation last week on journalist Ersan Atar and the online outlet he works for, Kısa Dalga, over a story the website ran entitled “Minutes from a mafia road cut-off and the deep silence of the state”.
Uçuk is a young prosecutor, who graduated from law school in 2018 and started his career in September 2021 in the central Osmaniye province, journalist Barış Pehlivan said. He was appointed to Istanbul within the week via special decree, circumventing rules that require prosecutors to stay in their appointed posts for five years before requesting transfers.
The judge who ordered the arrest, İbrahim Eroğlu, was appointed to his post in the Istanbul 2nd Court of Peace on 12 August, journalist Alican Uludağ said in a tweet.
“His experience is all of 13 days. He also became a judge after the failed coup attempt of 15 July. Which means he is a special, chosen person. He was brought to Istanbul last year,” Uludağ said.
Eroğlu in his ruling said Gülşen’s video was “shared many times by many accounts and groups along with negative comments”.
Meanwhile, conservative politician Ömer Yıldız, a district chairman for the Islamist party Felicity Again, said Gülşen was “wajib al-qatl”, an Islamic phrase that means “mandatory to kill”. Yıldız deleted his tweet shortly after posting it. No charges have been pressed.
“Gülşen’s arrest is an open sign of the government’s hostile attitude towards ideas and discourse it does not stand close to, and intolerance for diverse lifestyles,” Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) women’s chapter said in a tweet.
“Winds of peace have blown among young people from different walks of life for some time now. The goal here is to take a joke, an excessive one, and pit our youth against one another with it, so they can remain in power a bit longer, to steal a bit more,” main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said.
“If somebody had killed Gülşen, the murderer would not be caught and arrested this fast. Bravo, judiciary of the Justice and Development Party (AKP),” said journalist Mirgün Cabas.
“She felt it was wrong and apologised, it was so valuable. The politicised and instrumentalised judiciary did not only arrest Gülşen, it also attacked human virtues like reconciliation, apologising, forgiveness. We will reconcile,” said CHP’s Canan Kaftancıoğlu, herself targeted in a lawsuit for insulting the president.
Gülşen had issued an apology earlier, saying the comments were a “joke among long-time colleagues”. She said:
“A joke I made was brought forth by persons wishing to polarise society. I am sorry that my comments gave ammunition to those with bad intentions. As I defend freedom that I believe in, I see that I have drifted towards a radical extreme. I apologise to all who was hurt by my words. I should have found a different language, and I will.”