Top judge defends rape ruling as President Gül joins outcry

Top judge defends rape ruling as President Gül joins outcry

Top judge defends rape ruling as President Gül joins outcry

Gül says he is disturbed by the rape ruling. DAILY NEWS photo

Brushing aside a nationwide outrage, a senior judge has defended minimum terms handed down in a high-profile case on the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl at the hands of 26 men, insisting that the victim “went willingly to almost all encounters.”

Joining the choir of criticism yesterday, President Abdullah Gül wrote on his Twitter page that he was “deeply disturbed” by the ruling and voiced hope that the ultimate outcome of the case “will appease public conscience.”

Fevzi Elmas, head of the 14th Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals, which handled the case, said “there is nothing to do about the ruling,” but stressed that the trial had not been closed yet and the parties had not yet exhausted their legal recourses.

Elmas revealed details of the ruling for the first time yesterday after his chamber’s decision to uphold the verdict of the lower court in the southeastern city of Mardin, which sparked furious reactions by government ministers, opposition leaders and civic groups.

“The fuss cannot reverse the ruling. It is not final anyway. The parties to the case still have rights to resort to legal remedy,” he told Anatolia news agency.

Lawyers and activists, however, have sounded alarm that the case, which dates back to 2002, will soon fall under the 10-year statute of limitations and may result in all suspects ducking any penalty at all.

“We believe the ruling is sound. We had no doubts about it in the first place,” Elmas said.

He referred to a forensic report that described the victim, identified only by the initials N.Ç., as “mentally capable of rejecting the [abusive] acts” and defended the Mardin court’s decision to mandate minimum jail sentences from one to five years against the suspects in view of “the way the crimes were committed and the fact that the victim went willingly to almost all encounters.”

The suspects additionally benefited from the more lenient old penal code on grounds that the offenses were committed in 2002 and 2003, before tougher provisions were introduced in 2005.

In 2002, N.Ç. met female suspects T. and E., who are only identified by their initials, and was cajoled by the women into prostitution with local men who included civil servants, shopkeepers, bank clerks, a teacher and a soldier.

Elmas said a total of 32 suspects stood trial in the case. The Supreme Court of Appeals upheld the acquittal of three defendants due to insufficient evidence as well as the conviction of five others for rape. The court overturned the sentences of the remaining 24 suspects, calling on the lower court to increase their penalties, he said.

All suspects were cleared of separate charges of forcibly holding the victim, because she was deemed to have acted willingly and because the offense fell under the statute of limitations, he added.