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Turkish singer resurfaces after violent brush with death 22 juin 2011

Posted by Acturca in Art-Culture, Turkey / Turquie.
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The New York Times (USA) June 22, 2011

by Susanne Güsten, Istanbul

Drums were beaten, pipes played, and people danced in the streets of Istanbul on Sunday, as the singer Ibrahim Tatlises, a megastar in Turkey and much of the Middle East and Central Asia, made his first public appearance since being shot in the head by a hit squad three months ago.

Clad in a white shirt and cap and appearing to walk unaided, Mr. Tatlises, 59, emerged onto the rooftop terrace of a rehabilitation clinic in the Maltepe neighborhood of Istanbul, waving to the fans who had gathered in the street below to wish him well on Father’s Day.

His appearance, captured by the news cameras keeping watch outside the clinic, offered the first public glimpse of the wildly popular singer since he was gunned down on March 14 outside an Istanbul television studio after taping a segment of his regular TV show.

Three months after the attack, the good news for fans is that Ibo, as they affectionately call him, may well sing again. The bad news is that he may have to do it in prison.

Mr. Tatlises, whose high-pitched voice and sentimental songs are beloved throughout the region, suffered a gunshot wound through the right side of his head when hit men fired on his limousine with an automatic weapon from a car waiting outside the television studios in Istanbul’s Maslak neighborhood. His assistant was also wounded in the attack, for which the police, after a manhunt, arrested a dozen suspects, among them a former associate of the singer.

Mr. Tatlises underwent several operations, but awoke from an artificial coma days after the attack able to breathe and speak, according to medical bulletins at the time. He was flown to a rehabilitation facility in Munich in early April and returned to Turkey this month, transferring by ambulance from his private plane straight to the Maltepe clinic.

In a televised press conference, doctors at the facility said last week that Mr. Tatlises was improving daily. But although admirers hoisted huge posters with greetings to the singer and kept vigil outside the hospital, the star had not been seen again until Sunday.

As he appeared at the parapet and raised his right hand in greeting, jubilant cheers of ‘‘Ibo, Ibo’’ rose from the crowd, and well-wishers slaughtered a sacrificial ram on the grounds outside the hospital in thanksgiving.

But in countless discussions of the event on television, in social media and in daily life, observers noted that Mr. Tatlises appeared much thinner, that his jet-black hair was grey, and that his trademark mustache was gone. More importantly, the singer did not appear to be moving his left arm, fueling speculation about a paralysis of his left side.

Doctors would not specifically comment on the paralysis, but said Mr. Tatlises was able to perform the normal tasks of daily life in his suite at the clinic, such as opening doors, feeding himself and attending to his personal hygiene.

Mr. Tatlises could speak and had recently begun singing exercises, his doctor, Tunc Alp Kanyon, added, to the delight of the singer’s fans.

Meanwhile, prosecutors have decided to merge two ongoing investigations into the attack, after establishing strong ties between the two lines of inquiry, the Zaman newspaper reported this week.

The prosecutor in charge of the case, Ali Haydar, declined to comment.

The report said one line of inquiry had been examining links to Mr. Tatlises’s business dealings and alleged ties to organized crime, while the other had been looking into a possible political background connected to the Kurdish issue and the recent elections in Turkey.

Mr. Tatlises, a flamboyant figure off-stage and on, has far-flung business interests, including fast-food chains, media companies, hotels and an airline. In addition, he recently ventured into construction in northern Iraq, partnering with a local businessman to build villas and condominiums in Erbil and Sulaymaniya.

Mr. Tatlises’s business deals and partners have not always been above suspicion, and he has been cited in several racketeering investigations. Last year, he was convicted and sentenced to a year and 10 months in jail for ‘‘knowingly aiding and abetting organized crime.’’ The sentence was initially suspended for five years, but the High Court of Appeals overruled the suspension this month, instructing the criminal court to review the decision and jail the singer.

At least one of the suspects in custody for the attack on Mr. Tatlises is a former business associate and longtime foe. The suspect, Abdullah Ucmak, was wounded in a 1998 shooting attributed to Mr. Tatlises after a falling-out between the men. Since then, Mr. Ucmak has served seven years in jail for revenge attempts on the singer’s life. He was released only months before the March shooting.

Meanwhile, evidence collected in the other branch of the investigation has shown that a 25-year-old hit man allegedly hired by Mr. Ucmak for the shooting was trained by the Kurdish independence group P.K.K. in a camp in northern Iraq, according to several Turkish newspapers.

Mr. Tatlises, who is Kurdish himself, sought nomination early this year to run for Parliament for the ruling Justice and Development Party, or A.K.P., in the June 12 elections. He renewed his bid for nomination from his sickbed, when Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited him in hospital after the attack.

But when the A.K.P. did not choose him as a candidate, Mr. Tatlises had his lawyer sign him up to run as an independent from his hometown of Urfa in southeastern Anatolia, triggering suggestions from political opponents that he was seeking a seat to obtain parliamentary immunity from prosecution.

That is not unusual in Turkey, where nine newly elected deputies in jail on various charges were awaiting court decisions on their release under immunity rules this week.

Mr. Tatlises did not comment on the allegations, but withdrew his candidacy in April, 10 days after entering the race, citing health reasons for his decision.

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