Amnesty International launches campaign to release jailed Turkish rapper

Amnesty International (AI) on June 1 launched an online campaign, calling for the release of Turkish rapper Ezhel, who was placed on pre-trial detention last month after he was accused of publicly promoting drug use through his lyrics, music videos and social media posts.

Ömer Sercan İpekcioğlu, more commonly known as Ezhel, was summoned by the Turkish police on May 23 after a complaint was submitted to the Prime Ministry’s [Online] Communication Centre (BiMER) by a private citizen that the rapper, through his art, was encouraging drug use.

Ezhel, who was previously detained and released after questioning on similar accusations in December 2017, may face up to 10 years in prison.

In it campaign, Amnesty International points out that Ezhel’s detention is ‘’in violation of his right to freedom of expression, as protected under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) to which Turkey is a state party,’’ while noting that he has been detained solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression.

The 28-year-old rapper, a native of Turkey’s capital city of Ankara, is a rising star in Turkey’s rap scence. His music video “Şehrimin tadı” (The taste of my city) has over 30 million hits on YouTube, and whose song “Geceler” (Nights) has been streamed over 13 million times on the music streaming platform Spotify.

Thousands of tweets carried the hashtag #FreeEzhel to the worldwide trending topics list hours after news of the multi-instrumentalist artist’s arrest was reported.

In a letter he recently penned from prison, Ezhel explained that his time behind bars has been inspiring as he slammed censorship in Turkey.