Popular Turkish rapper Ezhel faces up to 10 years in jail for allegedly encouraging drug use, reports said Tuesday, in a case denounced by activists as an attack on freedom of expression.
The 28-year-old musician -- whose real name is Omer Sercan Ipekcioglu -- is accused of inciting cannabis use through social media postings as well as song lyrics, the private Dogan news agency reported.
He was arrested last month in Istanbul by anti-narcotics police.
The prosecutors’ prison sentence request came as part of an indictment approved by an Istanbul court Tuesday, Dogan said.
Amnesty International has already launched a campaign to press for Ezhel’s release, saying he was ‘detained solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression’.
One of the examples presented in the indictment was a picture the singer shared on his Twitter account showing him with a cannabis sativa plant. The image was liked by over 5,000 fans, Dogan said.
Ezhel has denied any wrongdoing.
He admitted taking the picture of himself with the plant without the purpose of encouraging drug use, the indictment said.
Ezhel also argued that his lyrics were just part of the art of music-making.
‘Under the influence of hashish, the light is brighter, puffs are taken / My path is dark, my direction, stars and noises. Moon is more beautiful than the sun,’ said the lyrics of the song ‘Geceler’ (Nights).
The Ankara-born songwriter caught public attention with the release of his debut album ‘Muptezhel’ last year. His music carries the influence of stars like Eminem and 50 Cent.
His songs have been viewed several millions of times online.
Critics accuse President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government of pressuring artists who often complain of censorship.
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