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Indictment seeks lengthy jail terms for ex-husband, parents of sexual abuse victim

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A Turkish court has accepted an indictment seeking lengthy prison sentences for the ex-husband and parents of a young woman who filed criminal complaints against them alleging that she was sexually abused starting at the age of six and has been subjected to abuse ever since, local media reported on Friday.

Turkey learned about the ordeal of the woman, identified only by the initials H.K.G, on Dec. 3 in an article written by Birgün daily columnist Timur Soykan, who said H.K.G., the daughter of a man affiliated with the İsmailağa community – a Sunni sect based in İstanbul – had been sexually abused by a then-29-year-old neighbor and member of the community, Kadir İstekli, when she was six.

According to Soykan, H.K.G. was engaged to İstekli at the age of 13, married him in a religious ceremony when she was 14 and became a mother at 17. Their official marriage reportedly took place when H. K.G. turned 18.

After getting a divorce in 2021, H.K.G. filed a criminal complaint against İstekli on charges of sexual abuse, in addition to her mother Fatma Gümüşel and father Yusuf Ziya Gümüşel, also the founder of the İsmailağa community-linked Hiranur Foundation, whom she accused of condoning the abuse.

According to Turkish media reports, a court on Friday accepted the indictment drafted by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, which seeks 67 years, 10 months and 15 days in prison for İstekli and 22 years, six months in prison for each of H.K.G.’s parents on charges of “successive child molestation.”

The first hearing of the trial is set for May 22, 2023, local media said.

Meanwhile, authorities from the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality (İBB) on Thursday closed down a complex in Sancaktepe that belongs to the Hiranur Foundation on the grounds that it was built illegally.

The foundation, which released a written statement regarding the criminal complaints filed by H.K.G. on its website earlier this week, saying that the institution has no links to the matter and that the accusations in the indictment consist of mere allegations, shut down its website and Twitter account on Friday, Turkish media reports said.

The Ministry of Family and Social Services previously announced that they had been involved in the case and would closely monitor the process and continue to provide legal support to the wronged party.

H.K.G.’s allegations sparked outrage in Turkey, which has “one of the highest rates of child marriage in Europe,” with an estimated 15 percent of girls married before the age of 18 and 2 percent married before the age of 15, according to the campaign group Girls Not Brides.

Although the minimum legal age of marriage is 18 years in Turkey, the law allows parties to marry at 17 with parental consent, or, in exceptional circumstances, a court may grant approval for marriage at age 16.

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