Expression Interrupted

Journalists and academics bear the brunt of the massive crackdown on freedom of expression in Turkey. Scores of them are currently subject to criminal investigations or behind bars. This website is dedicated to tracking the legal process against them.

Hip hop artist Ezhel acquitted in first hearing

Hip hop artist Ezhel acquitted in first hearing

Singer had been in pretrial detention since May 24 on the charge of "inciting drug use" through his lyrics 


Ömer Sercan İpekçioğlu, who goes by the stage name "Ezhel," was acquitted of the charge of “inciting drug use” in his lyrics and videos in the first hearing of his trial on June 19.

During the hearing overseen by the 44th Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul's Anadolu courthouse, the popular hip hop artist answered the accusations in the indictment in reference to a photo he had shared on Instagram and the lyrics to his song “Geceler” (Nights).

“I was sitting at the clothing store of a friend in Ankara when we noticed a plant in the garden. We figured out that it was cannabis. We pulled it out and took its picture, as the caption of which I wrote the lyrics of a song by [arabesque singer] Selahattin Özdemir from the '90s,” Ezhel told the court, referring to the song ‘veil of mystery’ -- making a double entendre in Turkish with the word “mystery,” which also means “weed.” İpekçioğlu added that he didn’t know sharing such a picture would be considered a crime.

İpekçioğlu said his song “Geceler” was written as a soundtrack to a TV series about a fantasy vampire story. “The song’s title is ‘nights’, so I tried to tell about the darkness of nights with a literary style as much as I could. I don’t intend in this song to encourage people to use drugs,” he said. 

Lyrics to ‘hold on to life’

Asked about another of his songs, “Yarınımız yok” (“We don’t have a future”), which wasn’t included in the indictment and touches upon the negative effects of drugs, Ezhel said the lyrics dealt with the dangers of drugs. “On the contrary, I write lyrics that help young people to hold on to life,” İpekçioğlu said, demanding his acquittal.

The judge said she interpreted İpekçioğlu’s music as a work of art and ruled for his acquittal, to the joy of the dozens of fans who were waiting outside the courtroom. Ezhel's imprisonment had stirred massive outcry, prompting social media campaigns under the hashtag #FreeEzhel calling for his release and charges to be dropped.