The ex-husband of Emine Bulut appeared before a court in the central Turkish city of Kırıkkale on Monday, two months after her murder shook Turkey.
Bulut was etched forever in public memory as the desperate voice of women killed by their current and former spouses, a thorny issue for Turkey. She was the woman in an 8-second viral video where a blood-soaked woman screams "I don't want to die," while a young girl, her daughter, screams "mother, please don't die." This was her last moment before she joined a growing list of women victim to domestic violence.
Her ex-husband Fedai Varan, who stabbed Emine in a cafe in the city, was brought to the court under tight security measures as angry relatives of Emine Bulut watched. Women's rights organizations and representatives from various bar associations from around Turkey also watched the first hearing in the trial. Mustafa Şenel, whose daughter Ceren, an academic, was killed by her student, was also among those watching the trial.
Bulut's murder has revived a debate on how to tackle the issue in a society where a patriarchal, warped mindset justifies any acts of violence against women. Killers, often ex-husbands, seek reduced sentences, claiming women "stained" their honor by cheating on them, or link the murders to "a brief fit of rage" over trivial matters.
The Turkish judiciary is also often criticized for handing down lenient sentences for perpetrators claiming victims "provoked" them or based on a controversial "good manners in court" clause in Turkish laws.
The murder also prompted nationwide protests against violence toward women while authorities announced social services will give lifelong social and psychiatric support to Bulut's 10-year-old daughter F.B.V. who witnessed the murder. Prosecutors in the case also sped up the otherwise slow indictment process and asked aggravated life imprisonment for Varan on charges of "deliberate killing with monstrous feelings," a crime in Turkish law that carries a similar sentence to an act of terrorism.
Varan was present in the courtroom while F.B.V. testified in the hearing via videolink. The court first accepted a plea for a lawyer from the Ministry of Family, Labor and Social Services to be a co-plaintiff. Fedai Varan did not testify, saying authorities did not give evidence in the case to his lawyer. His lawyer Ersoy Aytaç chose to blame police officers instead of defending his client.
Aytaç told court Bulut filed for police protection two hours before the murder. "Police officers who failed to protect her should be held accountable too," he said. Aytaç says he will not present his defense as not all evidence regarding the case was shared with him.
Bulut's daughter told the court "that person" followed them while they were outside. Throughout her testimony, she referred to her father as "that person" and said her mother met him in a cafe before the murder and the two spoke for a while.
"We left but he kept following us. My mother went to a police station and she spoke to policemen there. We left and saw him following us," she said. She also recounted the moments of the murder that took place after her mother tried to take shelter in a restaurant while fleeing Varan. Bulut's brothers also testified against Varan and told the court Varan beat their sister while she was pregnant with F.B. and "wasn't there" when their daughter was born.
Bulut's mother told the court that the suspect abandoned Emine Bulut after their daughter was born. "Your honor, hang this man or our suffering will not end," the mother pleaded to the court after shouting at the defendant. When the footage of Bulut's last moments was screened inside the courtroom as part of the hearing, Bulut's brothers tried to attack Varan. Police officers intervened and took the assailants out of the courtroom.
The hearing was adjourned to Oct. 21 after the judges ordered extra time for the defendant's lawyer to prepare his defense.