Ex-soldier walks free as sentence suspended in rape case

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A Turkish court has handed down a suspended sentence to a former noncommissioned officer standing trial for raping İpek Er, an 18-year-old Kurdish woman who later committed suicide, local media reported on Friday.

In the sixth and final hearing of his trial on Friday, former soldier Musa Orhan was given a suspended sentence of 10 years by the Siirt 1st High Criminal Court on conviction of sexual assault.

Since the sentence was suspended, Orhan wasn’t arrested but was rather placed under judicial supervision, Turkish media reports said.

Human Rights Association (İHD) co-chair and lawyer Eren Keskin on Friday condemned Turkish judiciary for letting Orhan walk free.

“İpek Er ended her life after the sexual assault she experienced. The attacker is free and most likely will flee in order to not ‘serve’ the sentence he was given. This is a place where a uniform and a wolf sign are held as ‘superior’ to both domestic and international law,” Keskin tweeted, referring to a photo of Orhan released by the Turkish media showing him making a hand sign of the Grey Wolves, representing a wolf’s head.

The Grey Wolves are seen as the militant wing of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), an ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), and their ideology is mainly based on Turkish nationalism. Therefore, Kurds and other minorities in Turkey have occasionally been their targets.

The ordeal of Er, a Kurdish woman who died in a hospital on August 18, 2020, 33 days after she tried to take her own life, was discovered in a letter she wrote on July 16, 2020, before her suicide attempt. She said in the letter that she was abducted and raped by Orhan for 20 days in the southeastern city of Batman.

Orhan was detained the following day after the rape allegation was confirmed by a report from the Council of Forensic Medicine but was later released under judicial supervision.

Many women’s associations in Turkey criticized the decision, saying the judicial system was “protecting a rapist” by allowing him to walk free.

In early October popular Turkish actress Ezgi Mola was convicted on insult charges and ordered to pay a fine of TL 5,200 ($377) for protesting Orhan’s release in a tweet in August 2020.

“Drown in the conscience that let you release this rapist low-life,” Mola had tweeted, after the former soldier was released pending trial after six days behind bars, despite a forensics report confirming that he raped Er.

Femicides and violence against women are serious problems in Turkey, where women are killed, raped or beaten every day. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government’s policies that protect men by granting them impunity is the main cause of the situation, critics say.

In late May Minister of Family and Social Services Derya Yanık attracted widespread criticism due to remarks suggesting that the country has experienced “tolerable levels” of domestic violence during the coronavirus pandemic while speaking to members of a committee investigating violence against women.

Early in 2020 President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sparked outrage in Turkey and the international community after he pulled the country out of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, better known as the Istanbul Convention, an international accord designed to protect women’s rights and prevent domestic violence in societies.

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