By: Daniel McElroy
After being released and rearrested two times over the course of a year, famed Turkish singer Atilla Taş has been charged with attempting to corrupt constitutional order and with membership in a “terrorist” organization. Both charges carry potential life sentences, and Istanbul’s chief prosecutor is seeking the harshest possible punishment.
Taş, who also wrote often for the Meydan newspaper until it was shut down by police the week after last July’s failed coup, is charged along with twelve other journalists. Their indictment contends that all thirteen suspects support the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), which is led by a preacher and former ally of President Erdoğan and is widely believed to have masterminded the coup attempt. All of the suspects, including Taş, deny any involvement with the group and maintain that they did not know the coup was planned.
Taş was first arrested in March 2016 after tweeting a criticism of then-Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, though he was released without charges. Then, he was arrested a second time in September 2016 and charged with operating a Twitter account that spread pro-FETÖ propaganda. The trial for these charges began on March 27, 2017, but ended again in Taş’s release, before he was rearrested on April 1 and given an additional indictment. The current charges accuse Taş and the others of opening bank accounts or depositing money on behalf of FETÖ, using an encrypted messaging software called ByLock that authorities believe to have been used by the organization, and being in touch with members of the organization via phone.
Turkey has seen a sharp rise in authoritarian suppression of dissidence in the year since the attempted coup, as Erdoğan has shut down over 100 media outlets and detained over 100,000 people in relation to the investigation surrounding FETÖ’s role. Taş is one of many prominent artists currently being targeted by the government—a group that includes Nûdem Durak, Sedat Laçiner, and Zehra Doğan.
Make your voice heard and advocate for Taş’s freedom now by visiting our Free Atilla Taş campaign page and sending a letter to President Erdoğan, Prime Minister Yıldırım, and Minister of Justice Bozdağ to express your concern with his imprisonment and the excessive and baseless charges being levelled against him.