An Istanbul taxi driver has been sentenced to a year and four months in prison for scamming a Thai tourist. Birol Topal was detained last year but released pending trial following a complaint by Thai national Nioon S., who claimed the driver defrauded and sexually assaulted her.
A court in Istanbul ordered his incarceration on charges of attempted robbery, while the sexual assault charges were dropped after Nioon S. withdrew her complaint.
Topal claimed in his final statement, before the announcement of the verdict, that he was "just joking" with the plaintiff. He claimed that the Thai woman asked for money from his family to withdraw her complaint.
Prosecutors have requested 25 years in prison for Topal, who added further shame to an already tainted reputation for the city's taxi drivers. The incident has caused public outrage in the country where taxi drivers, particularly in Istanbul, are often accused of scamming tourists.
In the cellphone video recorded by Nioon S., Topal is seen trying to sexually assault the tourist, touching her inappropriately and giving less than he should as change for taxi fare the tourist paid. The indictment said the woman hired Topal's taxi to travel to Beşiktaş. She first took the back seat but switched to the passenger seat in the front when the driver insisted. The driver did not run the taxi's meter and verbally harassed the woman, before forcibly holding her hand. Nioon S. then handed TL 100 to the driver, who despite agreeing on TL 30, returned only TL 20 in change.