Turkish popstar Gulsen apologized on social media before her arrest, but a government spokesman called her comments ‘insulting’.
Turkish pop star Gulsen was arrested on Thursday after an Istanbul lawyer opened an investigation into accusations of “inciting people to hatred and enmity” following comments he made on stage about religious schools, local media reported.
Singer Gulsen Bayraktar Colakoglu – a 46-year-old woman known only by her maiden name – was detained at her home in Istanbul and taken to court.
In April, a judge sent her to prison for questioning over comments she made at a concert about Imam Hatip religious schools.
A clip of the comments went viral and sparked outrage this week among senior members of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s conservative AK Party.
Gulsen is a household name in Turkey and her case has made headlines in the highly polarized country.
In a controversial comment, Gulsen allegedly mocked an unidentified man on stage as “deformed” as a result of his upbringing at the Imam Hatip school.
“Targeting a section of society by accusing it of perversion and trying to divide Turkey is a crime of hatred and an insult to humanity,” AK Party spokesman Omar Celik said.
Gulsen apologized on social media before his arrest.
“A joke I shared with my colleagues who I have worked with for many years … was featured and published by those who aim to polarize society,” she said.
“I regret that my words gave material to malicious people who aim to polarize our country.”
Gulsen’s lawyer Emek Emre promised to appeal Tare’s arrest and her immediate release.
“Our client has committed no crime,” he told reporters.
Erdogan and his ruling AK Party will need a strong turnout from their core of socially conservative voters to reverse a slide in the polls ahead of a general election next June.
The state-run Diyanet, or Directorate of Religious Affairs, has seen its budget and public influence grow in recent years, with Erdogan accused of using religion to boost his ratings ahead of tight elections next year.
Erdogan’s supporters say the moves are a reversal of anti-religious edicts issued by his staunchly secular predecessors in the One Party government.
Critics say Erdogan has bent the courts to his will to stifle dissent and free expression, charges the government denies.
The Turkish opposition has seized on Gulsen’s case to bolster their support.
CHP party leader Kemal Kilikdaroglu called on Turkey’s youth to get out and vote on Thursday to save artists like Gulsen from going to jail.
“I am appealing to the youth – these unjust decisions will end,” Kilicdaroglu said in a social media post.
“They are trying to rule this country by provoking and dividing you.”
The late-night news of Gulsen’s arrest led some Fenerbahce football fans to sing one of her songs at the Europa League match in Istanbul against Austria Vienna.
The social media post showed a section of the packed stadium joining in with the jailed star to sing in solidarity.