Turkish court acquits rapper arrested over lyrics: CNN Turk

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A Turkish rapper who faced 10 years of jail on charges of encouraging drug use in his lyrics was acquitted on Tuesday at the first session of his trial in Istanbul, broadcaster CNN Turk reported.

Sercan Ipekcioglu, 27, better known by his stage name Ezhel, had been detained since last month after a court accepted a prosecutor’s indictment against him over his lyrics and social media posts, it said.

He denied the charges.

Ezhel, whose videos have racked up millions of views online, refers to smoking marijuana in some of his songs. In Turkey, the encouragement of drug use is punishable by law, as is the possession and sale of narcotics.

Dozens of his fans flooded the court house ahead of the trial, CNN Turk said. The hashtag #FreeEzhel was one of the top trending topics on Turkish Twitter.

“After four weeks of pre-trial detention, the judge took just 30 minutes to rule for rapper Ezhel’s release and acquittal,” said Andrew Gardner of Amnesty International, which followed the trial on Monday.

Some 20,000 Turks took part in Amnesty’s campaign for release of the singer, Gardner said.

Amnesty International has campaigned for journalists, singers and rights defenders jailed in Turkey as part of a government crackdown on the right to free expression which accelerated after a failed coup in 2016.

Reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun; Editing by David Dolan, William Maclean