Transsexual Turkish singer takes on the army

On trial for questioning military campaign against PKK


A popular Turkish transsexual singer who infuriated the country's powerful armed forces by questioning a military campaign against Kurdish separatists told a court on Wednesday she would rather die than be silent.

Bulent Ersoy is on trial on charges of "turning the people against military service" in a case that has raised concerns about free speech in the European Union candidate, where criticizing the armed forces is taboo.

Ersoy, one of Turkey's most famous singers, caused a stir in February by saying that were she able to give birth to a son she would not allow him to fight in neighboring Iraq, where the military had launched operations against Kurdish rebels.

Dressed in white flowing linen, golden gem-studded sandals and matching accessories, the flamboyant Ersoy struck a defiant tone at the court in Istanbul.

"I spoke completely on behalf of humanity. I will continue to speak and say the same things even if they execute me," she was quoted as telling the judge by state-run Anatolian news agency.

Outside the courthouse, a group of fans held signs in Kurdish reading "Long Live the Diva!”

Insulting the military, a powerful and respected institution, is a crime in Turkey. Found guilty, she could face up to 2 1/2 years in prison.

Ersoy made her comments on a television show at a time when the Turkish army was conducting a major operation against Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebels in northern Iraq.

The PKK use northern Iraq as a base from which to launch attacks in southeastern Turkey, where they seek to create an independent homeland. Over 30,000 people have been killed in the insurrection since it was launched in 1984.

As part of membership talks, the EU has demanded greater freedom of expression in Turkey.