Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ spoke about a controversial court ruling for the first time after the Turkish public expressed outrage over a reduced sentence for a woman’s killer. Bozdağ called on the judiciary authorities to “debate” a provision in the laws that allowed lenient sentences for the convicted.
C.M.A., who pleaded guilty to strangling P.G. to death in 2020 before burning her body, was sentenced to 23 years in prison instead of the aggravated life imprisonment the prosecutors had asked for. The court had cited “unjust provocation” in its verdict after the convicted defendant told the judges that the victim had blackmailed him and would kill him if he did not stop her. A lawyer for the victim’s family had denied the blackmail or an attack by P.G. while the court is expected to announce the reasoning behind lenient sentence in the coming days or months.
The ruling by the court in the southwestern province of Muğla where the murder took place is open for appeal and a higher court may overturn it. But it already drew the ire of the public in the country where culprits in femicide cases sometimes get away with lenient sentences, thanks to “unjust provocation.” “Unjust provocation” is a technical interpretation of laws for the benefit of the accused and is usually granted to those acting in self-defense. In femicide cases, however, courts often invoke it if the defendant claims he or she was enraged by the actions of the victim. For the part of the victim, it is often “cheating” that “provokes” the actions of murderers in femicide cases involving former or current spouses. A.R.Y., a defendant accused of killing his six-month-pregnant wife in the central province of Konya, for instance, had his sentence commuted to 23 years from aggravated life imprisonment earlier this month based on "unjust provocation" and "good conduct," another controversial provision. A.R.Y. told the court that he shot his wife after she told him that she cheated on him. The "good conduct" in the case that helped a reduction in the sentence was the defendant trying to bandage the wound of his wife after firing six shots.
Addressing a forum on improving the capacity of the Court of Cassation (Yargıtay) on Thursday in the capital Ankara, Bozdağ said unjust provocation has been the subject of a debate everywhere “on TV, on the streets.”
“It is certainly useful to debate it so it can serve as a guideline for the judiciary,” he said. Bozdağ said the unjust provocation provision has been in use for centuries and there have been certain judicial interpretations to define its limits. “But I believe there is a serious need for a new comprehensive revision of those interpretations. I believe the Court of Cassation will serve as a guide on this issue,” he said.
“I have some questions. Should the unjust provocation rule be applied to cases involving torturing someone to death, to deliberate manslaughter? Should there be a separate assessment in separate cases? I think there should be a debate about this,” Bozdağ said.
The minister said the verdict “hurt” him like it hurt “the conscience of many people.” “But we are bound by laws and our conscience should comply with laws,” he said.