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Turkey sentences actress to prison for insulting Erdogan

A famous Turkish singer and actress has been sentenced to 10 months in prison for insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a performance in 2016, the Hurriyet newspaper said on Thursday.

Singer Zuhal Olcay was accused of changing the lyrics of one of her songs by substituting Erdogan’s name into it and making an insulting hand gesture while singing, Hurriyet’s report said.

Video from the performance showed Olcay changing her song’s lyrics to read “Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it’s all empty, it’s all a lie, life will end one day and you’ll say ‘I had a dream’,” the report added.

In her testimony, Olcay rejected the accusations, saying she had used Erdogan’s name because it fit the rhyme scheme and had no “ulterior or insulting motive.” She added that the hand gesture was aimed at an audience member.

Olcay was previously fined 10,620 lira ($2,708) for “insulting a public servant” in 2010, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.

Insulting the president is a crime punishable by up to four years in prison in Turkey.

Lawyers for Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics for more than a decade, have filed more than 1,800 cases against people including cartoonists, a former Miss Turkey winner and school children on accusations of insulting him.

Enes Kanter, a Turkish basketball player in the US NBA team, New York Knicks, is also standing trial in absentia for insulting Erdogan.

Following the 2016 failed coup, Erdogan said he would drop outstanding suits in a one-off gesture, but several new cases have since emerged.

Rights groups and some Western governments have voiced concern that Turkey is sliding toward authoritarianism, criticizing a crackdown, which has so far seen some 150,000 people sacked or suspended from their jobs and more than 50,000 jailed pending trial on suspicion of links to the failed coup.

The government says such measures are necessary to ensure stability and defend Turkey from multiple security threats.

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