Page last updated at 11:59 GMT, Wednesday, 18 June 2008 12:59 UK

Turkish singer tried over dissent

Bulent Ersoy during Turkey's Pop Idol show (picture courtesy of Bora Bagcibasi)
Bulent Ersoy could face a long jail term for her anti-military remarks

One of Turkey's best known singers, Bulent Ersoy, has gone on trial charged with attempting to turn the public against military service.

The charges were brought after she suggested it was not worth sacrificing soldiers' lives in Turkey's conflict with the Kurdish separatist PKK group.

The transsexual singer made her comments on television last February.

The army was conducting a major operation against the PKK in northern Iraq at the time.

Some 40,000 people have died since the conflict with the PKK began in 1984.

Ms Ersoy did not show up in court, saying she had to attend a concert, so the trial has been postponed until September, when she will be obliged to attend.

Ms Ersoy has already said she will stand by her comments.

But she faces up to four-and-a-half years in prison if she is convicted.

Criticism risky

Hakkan Ozgur, one of those who submitted an official complaint against her, was in court for the start of the trial.

"The Turkish military is fighting a war on terror," he said.

Some suggest that behind closed doors, many Turks share Bulent Ersoy's exasperation

"I believe making propaganda against this is illegal. It creates doubts in people over whether to go to the military. It sows doubt in the minds of those whose children are already serving."

"The lives of our soldiers are at stake."

Ms Ersoy is Turkey's best known diva, adored across the country, says the BBC's Sarah Rainsford in Istanbul.

She was already one of the country's most popular male singers, when in 1981 she underwent a sex-change operation.

But questioning the Turkish military can be a risky business, our correspondent says.

Article 318 of the penal code - dissuading people from military service - is frequently used by the military against its critics.

Meanwhile critics say a separate article, making it a crime to insult the Turkish nation and its institutions, is used to stifle free speech.

Ms Ersoy's trial may well scare many others into silence, our correspondent says.

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