ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Yet another Turkish singer received on Tuesday jail time for almost one year, 11 months and 20 days to be precise, for remarks the judiciary considered an insult to the country’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
During an event in the Aegean city of Izmir in late 2016, singer-songwriter Suavi Saygan, 67, had called out the President’s ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) previous alliance with the US self-exiled Turkish Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen’s movement.
“Until yesterday, they were shoulder to shoulder. Six of FETO is half a dozen of Tayyip,” Suavi had said, using the President’s middle name.
“FETO,” originally a derogatory diminutive of the name “Fethullah” over the years, became a nickname among the nationalist secularists, and later an official government designation standing for “the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization” to refer to the Gulenist movement.
Suavi’s comments came weeks after a failed military coup attempt in mid-2016 to dislodge Erdogan from power, which the President blamed on his one-time ally’s adherents then powerful within security forces and bureaucracy, a charge Gulen and his followers deny.
During a hearing at an Izmir courthouse, the singer’s lawyers argued that his words were an exercise of his constitutional right to free speech and there was no insult.
“My client’s remarks are in fact a kind of criticism establishing how the then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the FETO community were supporting each other,” lawyer Ercan Demir said according to the privately-owned Dogan news agency.
The court had initially sentenced Suavi to one year and three months in jail, then reduced it to 11 months and 20 days.
The sentencing was then converted to a fine of 14,000 Turkish Liras (3.488 USD).
Last month another acclaimed singer and actor, Zuhal Olcay, was condemned to 10 months in prison for tuning the President’s name to the lyrics of one of her songs.
Her sentence though was not converted to a fine, and she will have to go to jail if a higher court upholds her conviction.
Insulting Erdogan can get one imprisoned for up to four years.
Earlier this year, a Kurdish lawmaker was banned from politics and ousted from the Parliament for a statement a court viewed an insult to Erdogan.
There are investigations against a dozen opposition lawmakers, journalists, artists, and people from other walks of life in the country where over 3,658 have been accused of the said crime.
In one striking example, a groom in the Kurdish city of Diyarbakir was arrested and sent to jail two days before his wedding.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany