Two Turkish soldiers who were convicted of raping an Afghan refugee during her pushback from Turkey to Iran in January have been sentenced to a total of 69 years in prison, Voice of America Turkish edition reported.
The incident took place in the eastern province of Van on Jan. 2 when eight Afghan refugees who had crossed the border with Iran were captured by Turkish soldiers.
Among them was the Afghan woman, identified only by the initials L.M., who was allegedly raped by two soldiers, A.C.D. and O.K., when the Afghans were being pushed back across the border.
The woman fled the group and reported the incident to officers at a nearby observation tower, which led to the detention and subsequent arrest of the two soldiers.
During their trial at the Van 5th High Criminal Court, the soldiers claimed that the sex was consensual.
L.M. said in her statement to the court through a translator that the soldiers raped her and that they were lying to avoid the consequences of their crime.
Lawyers from Turkey’s Ministry of Family and Social Policy, who represented L.M. during the trial, demanded the maximum sentences for the defendants on charges of “abuse of power.”
The court handed down a prison sentence of 32 years, six months to A.C.D. on charges of rape and deprivation of liberty, while O.K. was given a prison sentence of 37 years, one month on the same charges at the final hearing of their trial in June.
Although the trial was concluded in June, the court’s rulings were not made public until the court recently announced its reasoned opinion in which the court said it had handed down the maximum sentences to the defendants because they had abused the power stemming from their public duty.
The court ruled for the continuation of the arrest of the defendants and did not reduce their sentences because the defendants showed no signs of remorse.
Turkey, which hosts some 3.7 million registered Syrian refugees, has been faced with an increasing number of Afghans attempting to enter the country through Iran since the Taliban took control of Kabul in August 2021.
There is growing anti-refugee sentiment in Turkey, where hate crime is widespread.
The Turkish government is criticized for its open door policy for refugees and using them as a bargaining chip with Europe.