In a move that angered rights groups, a Turkish court on Monday handed down a reduced sentence of 23 years to a man who killed his ex-lover on the grounds that the victim had “provoked” him, Turkish media outlets reported.
The femicide case, closely followed by women’s rights groups, concerns the brutal killing of 27-year-old university student Pınar Gültekin, who went missing in Turkey’s southwestern Aegean province of Muğla on July 16, 2020. Five days later, the woman was found dead in a forest.
Forensic investigations revealed that Gültekin was strangled and then set on fire by her ex-boyfriend, Cemal Metin Avcı, who confessed to the murder.
The Muğla 3rd High Criminal Court, which heard the trial concerning the murder of Gültekin, who was among at least 300 women killed in Turkey in 2020, according to the We Will Stop Femicide Platform, first handed down an aggravated life sentence to Avcı on charges of premeditated murder. But the court later ruled to reduce his sentence to 23 years based on Article 29 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), which is often used to reduce sentences for men accused of such crimes on the grounds that the victim provoked the murder with her actions.
Turkish courts are often accused of interpreting laws leniently in cases of gender-based violence. They also reduce sentences for men based on “good conduct” in the courtroom, which is at the discretion of the judge.
Avcı’s family members who faced up to five years in prison for aiding and abetting, helping to cover his tracks and concealing evidence of the crime, have been acquitted of the charges.
The court’s decision led to outrage among Gültekin’s family members and the women rights groups following the trial.
Lawyer Rezan Epözdemir, who represented the slain woman’s family, said “Justice and law have died in Muğla today” after the announcement of the court’s decision.
“She was set alight and then buried. All the evidence [related to the murder] was destroyed. The court gave credit to a fictional defense that nobody believed and let the [defendant] benefit from supposed provocation,” said Epözdemir.
Gültekin’s mother Şefika said her daughter suffered a horrific death and that she will never find the sentence given to the killer adequate.
The gruesome murder took place as the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was considering withdrawing from the İstanbul Convention.
Despite opposition from the international community and women’s rights groups, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan issued a decree in March 2021 that pulled the country out of the international treaty, which requires governments to adopt legislation prosecuting perpetrators of domestic violence and similar abuse as well as marital rape and female genital mutilation.
The Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, better known as the Istanbul Convention, is an international accord designed to protect women’s rights and prevent domestic violence in societies and was opened to the signature of member countries of the Council of Europe in 2011.
Femicides and violence against women are serious problems in Turkey, where women are killed, raped or beaten every day. Many critics say the main reason behind the situation is the policies of the AKP government, which protects violent and abusive men by granting them impunity.
According to the We Will Stop Femicide Platform, 280 women were murdered in Turkey in 2021.