A prosecutor's appeal to the court for a reduction in the original sentence for a defendant accused of sexually abusing three children raises concerns about the legal process in such cases. The prosecutor has called for a reduction on the grounds that underage victims consented to sexual intercourse.
The case in question involves a 42-year-old suspect who invited three 14-year-old girls to his house in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır. The girls accused the man, who invited them while pretending to teach them English, of sexual abuse.
The defendant was facing life imprisonment for forcing the girls to take drugs and for sexual abuse in 2014, as well as possession of firearms. After seven months in detention he was released by a court that ruled his pre-trial detention was beyond legal limits. The defendant has rejected the charges. Meanwhile, the three victims underwent psychological assessments and two expert reports found they were traumatized. But the prosecutor's office asked for a third report that found the girls were not affected psychologically. In the latest hearing of the trial, the prosecutor asked judges to reduce the sentence to a prison term ranging between three to 10 years, claiming that one of the victims had "consented" in the sexual assault case and two other girls only suffered third-degree sexual abuse. The court adjourned the hearing for a final verdict on the case, but the prosecutor's request caused uproar with people taking to social media to vent their fury over considering sex with a minor as being "under consent."
Yet, reductions in sentences for crimes over unjust provocation or consent, as in this case, is nothing new in Turkey. The interpretation of laws by the judiciary occasionally favors the accused.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court of Appeals ordered a reduction in the sentence of a man convicted of murdering his wife in the northwestern province of Tekirdağ over "unjust provocation" after a medical report found the woman might have cheated on her husband before she was stabbed to death in 2011.
Family and Social Policies Minister Ayşenur İslam told reporters on Tuesday that she believed the appeal by the prosecutor would be rejected by the court, and her ministry would intervene in the case in favor of the victims. "This is quite a common case [in terms of sentence reduction]. I have already said that our laws do not have any shortcomings, and they are even better than other countries, especially laws on domestic violence and child abuse. Unfortunately, when it comes to their application, we face problems. Certainly, we cannot interfere in the judicial process, but we only express our appeal that the laws should be applied better. We want every legal privilege to be handed to the victims rather than to the defendants," she said.
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