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Fury rages over rape case in Turkey

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News | 11/2/2011 12:00:00 AM |

Government ministers and deputies from opposition parties all joined an outcry regarding a court decision that lowers the sentence for 26 suspects who were tried for allegedly raping a 13 year old girl. Family and Social Policies Minister Fatma Şahin called the ruling ‘unacceptable and worrying,’ in a written statement.

Government ministers and opposition members have joined an outcry over a verdict by the Supreme Court of Appeals that ruled the 13-year-old victim in an alleged rape case had consented to sex with 26 suspects.

Family and Social Policies Minister Fatma Şahin called the ruling “unacceptable and worrying,” in a written statement issued Tuesday after the Supreme Court of Appeals recently upheld the ruling of a local court in the southeastern province of Mardin to sentence the suspects to the minimum penalty.

“A child’s consent is not looked after [when investigating a criminal] act committed against a minor who is categorized as being incapable of understanding the meaning and consequences of the deed [in question],” Şahin said.

The victim, identified only by her initials N.Ç., met the female suspects T. and E., also identified only by their initials, in 2002, after which time the two women facilitated the victim’s having intercourse with 26 individuals in exchange for money.

“A judiciary that is incapable of upholding the rights of a 13-year-old child entertains no capacity whatsoever to uphold the Constitution,” wrote Education Minister Ömer Çelik on Twitter on Tuesday.

The 26 suspects charged with having intercourse with the victim included soldiers, civil servants, shopkeepers and teachers.

Speaking during a visit to Azerbaijan yesterday, Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin said the controversy arose from the fact that the case pertained to offenses committed in 2002, before a penal code reform introduced tougher provisions in 2005. “Similar rulings will be out of the question from now on,” he said.

The Supreme Court of Appeals issued a statement, saying that it would withhold comment on the case because it “would harm the principles of a fair trial as judicial processes have not yet been completed in all respects.”

Minister Şahin said amendments in a draft bill currently in the making would eliminate any remaining loopholes that allow for mitigated sentences for child abusers.

The head of Parliament’s Gender Equality Commission, Binnaz Toprak, said “public sentiment must raise its voice” against the ruling. Her fellow Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Aylin Nazlıaka said N.Ç., who is now 20, had earned a high school degree through home study, had a part-time job and aspired to earn a degree in law or communications.

Sebahat Tuncel of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) joined the condemnations, labeling the ruling as a “crime against humanity.”

In a related development, Şahin said a 30-article draft bill that would also introduce tougher measures to prevent violence against women would be submitted to the Cabinet this week. “We will be using technology. If an [abusive] husband returns home despite court restrictions and poses a risk to a woman’s life, then a signal system will be activated. We’ve put technical pursuit into the bill,” she said at a meeting of Parliament’s Planning and Budget Commission.

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