Turkish pop star Gulsen apologized on social media before her arrest, but a government spokesman called her comments “disgraceful”.
Turkish pop star Gulsen was arrested on Thursday after an Istanbul prosecutor launched an investigation into “incitement to hatred and hostility” after she made a comment on stage about religious schools, local media reported.
Singer Gulsen Bayraktar Colakoglu – a 46-year-old woman known by her first name – was arrested at her home in Istanbul and is on trial.
A judge subsequently remanded her in custody pending an investigation into her remarks made at a concert in April about religious schools by Imam Hatip.
A clip of the comments went viral, sparking outrage among senior members of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s conservative AK Party this week.
Gulsen is a household name in Turkey and her case has made headlines in the highly polarized country.
In the controversial comment, Gulsen apparently remarked to an unidentified person on stage that his “perversion” was caused by his upbringing at an Imam Hatip school.
“Attacking a section of society with accusations of ‘perversion’ and trying to divide Turkey is a crime of hatred and shame against humanity,” said AKP party spokesman Omer Celik.
Gulsen apologized on social media before her arrest.
“A joke I’ve shared with my colleagues who I’ve worked with for many years … was featured and published by those who aim to polarize society,” she said.
“I am sorry that my words have given material to malicious people aimed at polarizing our country.”
Gülsen’s lawyer Emek Emre promised to appeal the star’s arrest and demand 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 social-conservative voters to reverse a dip in the polls ahead of next June’s general election.
The state’s Diyanet, or Directorate of Religious Affairs, has seen its budget and public influence grow in recent years, leading to accusations that Erdogan is using religion to boost his ratings ahead of next year’s elections.
Erdogan’s supporters say the moves are a reversal of anti-religious dictates issued by the AK Party’s strictly secular predecessors in government.
Critics say Erdogan has bent the courts to his will to crack down on dissent and free speech, the government denies.
The Turkish opposition took up Gülsen’s case to bolster her support.
CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu on Thursday called on Turkish youth to come and vote next year to save artists like Gülsen from jail.
“I am calling on the youth – these unjust judgments will come to an end,” Kilicdaroglu said in a social media post.
“They try to rule this country by provoking and dividing you.”
The late-night news of Gülsen’s arrest prompted some Fenerbahce football fans to sing one of their songs at a Europa League game in Istanbul against Austria Wien.
Social media posts showed part of the packed stadium joining in the song in solidarity with the imprisoned star.