Famous Kurdish poet released from jail, says arrest was unlawful

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Famous Kurdish poet, writer and journalist Yılmaz Odabaşı, who was arrested in İstanbul on Wednesday, was released on Thursday and said his arrest was unlawful and motivated by fascism.

The reason for Odabaşı’s arrest was not immediately clear on Wednesday, but it came shortly after the poet criticized an ongoing government crackdown on the faith-based Gülen movement, accused by the Turkish government of masterminding a coup attempt in 2016.

However, Odabaşı explained on his Twitter account on Thursday that his arrest was related to a fight he had with a supporter of Turkish President and Justice and Development Party (AKP) leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who he said harassed him, standing in front of his house and playing an Erdoğan campaign song named “Dombra,” which praises the president. The song repeats a line from Erdoğan’s election campaign about how far Turkey has developed under his rule. Odabaşı said this person intentionally did this knowing that he was a Kurd.

Odabaşı wrote that he first warned the person and when he persisted, he punched him and was given a jail sentence of three years. Recalling that a man who punched main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu in 2019 went unpunished, Odabaşı appealed to Turkish Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül to examine his file and declare the sentence unlawful.

“They won’t find anything other than one punch, which I mentioned to the court myself. If there’s any other evidence against me, I’m ready to be named the most dishonorable person in this country,” Odabaşı tweeted.

The poet said ministry inspectors or Turkey’s Constitutional Court would determine his prison sentence was unlawful and was motivated by fascism, or else he would go to the European Court of Human Rights to seek justice.

Odabaşı left Turkey following the general election of November 2015 when the AKP, which has been in power since 2002, came to power again as a single party government. He returned to Turkey in 2016 after living abroad.

In 2017 Odabaşı received a suspended jail sentence of one year, eight months for allegedly insulting President Erdoğan in a column in 2015.

Insulting the president is subject to criminal charges under Turkish law, and Erdoğan has sued critics, including regular citizens, in unprecedented numbers for allegedly insulting him.

In his tweet he posted shortly before his arrest on Wednesday, Odabaşı said: “The horrendous crackdown conducted on us, the leftists, for years during the Sept. 12 [1980] coup era is now being perpetrated on tens of thousands of people and KHK [purge] victims who are in some way associated with the Fethullah Gülen group. Everyone deserves respect as a human being, and oh, rulers, never take aim at women [mothers] and children,” Odabaşı tweeted, calling on everyone to raise their voice against the “blood freezing and sleep-hijacking tragedies.”

The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding the failed coup on July 15, 2016 and labels it a “terrorist organization,” although the movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

Since the coup attempt, followers of the Gülen movement have been subjected to a massive crackdown, with more than 130,000 removed from state jobs, close to 300,000 investigated and some 100,000 arrested on terrorism charges including ailing and elderly people, pregnant women and mothers of newborn babies.

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