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Turkish singer sentenced over joke on religious schools

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 A court gavel. (Courtesy)

A court in Istanbul on Wednesday handed Turkish pop singer Gulsen a 10-month suspended sentence after convicting her of "inciting hatred and enmity" over a joke about Turkey's religious schools, Turkey's state-run news agency reported.

The singer-songwriter was briefly jailed last year for the joke she made during a concert, when she quipped that the "perversion" of one of her musicians came from attending a religious school.

The 46-year-old singer, whose full name is Gulsen Colakoglu, was jailed for five days and later spent 15 days under house arrest despite having apologized for any offense she caused religious school graduates.

The court on Wednesday found her guilty of the charge and initially sentenced her to one year in prison, Anadolu Agency reported. The court later reduced the sentence, citing her "respectful stance" during the trial. Gulsen will face prison if she reoffends within the next five years.

There was no immediate comment from the singer.

Gulsen had vehemently rejected accusations that she aimed to "incite hatred" insisting that her comment "was a joke between two people."

She had told the court in her defense that she had teased a band member who was nicknamed "Imam" but had not attended a religious school.

On Wednesday, lawyer Ziya Ilker Goktas reiterated that the comment was a joke and requested her acquittal insisting "there was no crime."

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and many members of his Islam-based ruling party are graduates of religious schools, called Imam Hatip, which were originally established to train imams.

Turkey's penal code criminalizes incitement of hatred and enmity against different groups in society based on class, race, religion or sect, requiring a prison sentence in cases that lead to threats against public safety.

Gulsen was previously a target in Islamic circles for her revealing stage outfits and for unfurling an LGBTQ flag at a concert.

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