Turkish rapper and government critic Ezhel acquitted of drug charges

Turkish rapper and government critic Ezhel acquitted of drug charges
The Turkish rapper has been a vocal critic of Turkey's government and its leaders, which rights groups say is what led to his detention.
2 min read
19 June, 2018
Ezhel reacts after being released from the Maltepe prison in Istanbul [Getty]
An Istanbul court on Tuesday acquitted a popular Turkish rapper who faced up to 10 years in jail on charges of encouraging drug use.

The acquittal occurred within just nine minutes of the trial opening in a case that drew widespread outrage and alarm. 

Ezhel, 28, whose real name is Omer Sercan Ipekcioglu, was accused of inciting cannabis use through social media postings as well as song lyrics. He was arrested late last month in Istanbul by anti-narcotics police and his case was seen by rights groups as an example of declining freedom of expression under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The judge ruled that Ezhel had not committed any crime intentionally and ordered him to be acquitted and released immediately. He was due to walk free from the prison, where he has been held the last three weeks, in the next hours.

"We got an acquittal. We can say that justice has been done," the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) freedom of speech group, which has followed the case, quoted his lawyer Fuat Ekin as saying.

The Ankara-born songwriter caught public attention with the release of his debut album "Muptezhel," which translates to "drug user" in Turkish slang, last year.

Ezhel released the record on his own, without backing from a major label.

His concerts have sold out across the country and his most popular music video has been viewed 36 million times on YouTube - making it one of the most watched Turkish hip hop videos of all time.

Ezhel's music carries the influence of stars like Eminem and 50 Cent. 

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