Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ersoy Acquitted in Article 318 Case

From Bianet:
The 18th Criminal Court of First Instance acquitted Bülent Ersoy, the famous transsexual singer of Turkey, of the accusation of alienating people from military service through her words during a TV program. She had said that if she had a son she would not send him to fight in the Northern Iraq operations.

The court ruled yesterday (December 18) that there was no intention of committing crime, she was using her freedom of expression. Ersoy did not come to the last hearing.

. . . .

Ersoy defended her position by saying that she was demanding solution rather than dying to solve the problem at hand and she also added that she had the right to express her opinions as an artist who was born and raised in Turkey and paid her taxes.

“If it is treason or alienating people from military service to ask for solution rather than death, then that is simply a matter of understanding. I am here because I was misunderstood.”

Ersoy is on trial for talking against deaths in the Northern Iraq operations during the TV program Popstar Alaturka on February 24, which was aired by Star TV.

The prosecutor had filed the lawsuit following complaints by ten people and based his arguments on the claim that every Turk was born a soldier and that Ersoy’s speech was quoted by the pro-Kurdish Roj TV.

According to article 318 of the Turkish Penal Code, “(1) Anyone caught encouraging or suggesting alienation of people from the military service or does propaganda towards this goal will be sentenced to prison from six months to two years. (2) If this act is done through media then the sentence will be doubled.” (EÖ/TB)
Ersoy was charged in May, another victim of another article limiting freedom of expression apart from 301. Ersoy's remarks questioned the use of the term "şehid", or martyr, when referring to Turkish soldiers killed in the state's conflict with the PKK have prompted a prosecutor to file charges against her using one of the many laws restricting freedom of expression in Turkey—discouraging membership in the Turkish Armed Services. Ersoy also claimed, “If I had a child, I would not send him to the grave for the war of other people.” Notable to this case is that the prosecutor Ali Çakır, who submitted the indictment against Ersoy, used as evidence the airing of Ersoy's remarks on Roj-TV. TDZ quoted Çakır last May:
Considering the words she used as a whole, these remarks were made while the Turkish Armed Forces [TSK] were conducting a ground offensive in northern Iraq and when the Turkish society’s sensitivity toward military service and soldiers had reached a peak. Her remarks were aimed at discouraging people from sending their sons to military service. For this reason Ersoy was praised by Roj TV, known as the media organ of the PKK. Some were encouraged by her statements and called on the Turkish society to not send its sons to military service under these circumstances, claiming that Turkish soldiers were martyred in a meaningless war in northern Iraq.
The prosecutor also placed the credo that "every Turk is born a soldier in his indictment. This is precisely what freedom of expression is up against in Turkey, the kind of resistance to free thought and expression that must be overcome if Turkey is to have a freer marketplace of ideas in the future. Ersoy's court victory is a step in the right direction, but wonders if the verdict would have been different if she was Kurdish.

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