An imam has been sentenced by the courts for performing a marriage ceremony without using state papers and regulations in the eastern province of Bitlis.
A 16-year-old girl, identified by local authorities as R.D., escaped from her home last year after being forced to marry a 17-year-old male in exchange for 12,000 Turkish Liras, daily HaberTürk reported.
“They forced me to marry in a religious ceremony after I was sold for 12,000 liras, without my consent. I want to go to school, please save me,” the girl reportedly said in her complaint to the district governor, who sheltered her, after fleeing home.
An official investigation had been launched into the incident and the imam, identified as M.I., was suspended from his post for “abusing his duties.”
Despite the girl voluntarily returning back to her family’s home after she was taken under state protection for three days, her father claimed she was in fact 18-years-old and she married the man with her own consent.
A lawsuit was opened against the imam who originally received a sentence of one month and 20 days in prison on charges of “conducting a religious wedding ceremony without seeing official state papers that prove the marriage was within Turkish law,” according to HaberTürk. However, the original prison sentence has been changed and the imam will now receive a 1,300-lira fine.
The fine will be a leading case in Turkey if the Supreme Court approves the court’s decision.
Girls between the ages of 16 and 18 can get married with permission from their parents, according to Turkish law. However, it is widely known in Turkey that many underage girls marry through a religious ceremony if they are younger than the age of 16, or if official state forms of marriage are not common in the areas where they live.