Freedom of Expression

Free Atilla Taş

Update: Atilla Taş was released from prison on October 24, 2017, after spending 416 days in pretrial detention. All charges were dropped.

Atilla Taş is a Turkish singer, actor, and journalist born in Ceyhan who has spent his adult life between Istanbul and New York. He is best known as the singer of numerous apolitical pop songs through the 1990s and early 2000s until becoming a television and print journalist. In both his journalism and more recent musical releases, he has been critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Taş has criticized Erdoğan’s regime as authoritarian and Islamist.

Born in 1975, he released his first album in 1998 and appeared in his first film the next year. In the mid-2000s Taş studied film in New York, where he developed an interest in newscasting. He has since continued to record music while writing for the Meydan newspaper and making television news appearances.

In March 2016 Atilla Taş was arrested after posting a tweet critical of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. “I feel honored to have been arrested for my ideas,” he said then. “I’m not afraid of anyone.” He was later released without charges.

In the three-month state of emergency declared by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan following the attempted coup on July 15, 130 media outlets have been shut down by the Turkish government. This includes Meydan, for which Taş wrote, which was shut down and had its top editors arrested on July 21.

Taş’ most recently released song “Hırsız” (Thieves) has been used by activists to protest corruption in Erdoğan’s party.

On September 2, 2016, a second wave of arrests saw Atilla Taş detained. He was charged with knowingly aiding FETÖ, the group blamed by Erdoğan for the July coup.

FETÖ is led by Fethullah Gülen, a preacher and former ally of the president, until he led a 2013 corruption investigation which saw many members of Erdoğan’s party charged. Atilla Taş has not publicly stated membership of any political party.

Taş went on trial Monday, March 27, 2017, on terrorism charges of “membership in an armed terrorist organization.” He and several others are accused of managing a Twitter account that spread propaganda on behalf of Fethullah Gülen. Gülen denies any knowledge or involvement in the coup attempt.

If convicted, he could face a potential two life sentences in prison.

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