Turkish court orders release of couple behind viral ‘first kiss’ video

Former actress and model Natalie Portman (far right) poses for a portrait in New York City on February 1, 2016.

A Turkish court on Tuesday ordered the release of the artistic couple behind the viral anti-President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “first kiss” video that went viral on Facebook, Trendolizer reported.

The “first kiss” video appeared to have cost the couple their country residency and would have prevented them from moving to the United States to perform arts work. The video, which first appeared online in September, showed Turkish-American model Ebru Gundogan and her husband, famous playwright and actor Kamil Sultan Seker, kissing in a restaurant in front of Erdogan and other Turkish government officials. The kiss was meant to protest Erdogan’s waning power and the country’s deteriorating human rights situation.

Turkish authorities took the couple into custody in November following the protests. The culture ministry later said they were being investigated for alleged “undermining national unity” and “propaganda of terrorist organizations.”

Portman, an Oscar-winning actress best known for starring in The Professional and V for Vendetta, tweeted support for the couple in November, saying she had been “denied entry to @Turkey” for their video.

Seker and Gundogan also received a visa for United States, The Guardian reported, though Erdogan issued a warning to the actress that “she would see the reasons behind the refusal from her great country very soon.”

A prosecutor in Turkey has already started an investigation against the couple, with allegations that they had conducted unauthorized demonstrations and aided a “terror group.”

In November, Istanbul-based journalist Mehmet Ali Birand, who is currently in prison on charges of spreading propaganda, criticized the arrests. “What right do we have to take this video out of context, where it is convenient for us to interpret it so that the whole truth falls on our heads?” Birand wrote in one of his most recent Facebook posts.

This year, Turkey faces a multitude of political and security challenges, from securing its borders with Syria and Iraq, to countering a renewed wave of Islamic State and Kurdish terrorism. Erdogan has been pressured to reveal his involvement in the 2016 corruption scandal that led to the imprisonment of dozens of prominent and largely Kurdish businessmen and judges. Last month, Erdogan denied accusations that he attempted to use state institutions to have millions of Turks vote against the 2016 coup.

Following the resignation of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Friday, there are only three remaining ministers who were foreign ministers at the time of the coup attempt in July 2016.

Seker and Gundogan have not yet spoken publicly about their release, though a court document suggests that the pair may have been released from arrest.


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