Former governor acquitted of gender-based violence charges despite evidence 

A former Turkish governor was acquitted of domestic violence charges despite compelling evidence against him, the Gazete Duvar news website reported.

Orhan Çiftçi, the former governor of Kırklareli province, was accused of taking his ex-girlfriend to a forest by force and beating her with the participation of three other men. The incident took place in 2017, and the prosecutor presented camera recordings, historical traffic search (HTS) data and expert reports that supported the accusations against Çiftçi and his friends. Furthermore, the victim, M.Ö. presented a medical report confirming the bruises on her body as evidence that she had been beaten. 

In June 2023 Çiftçi and the three men were handed down 10-month suspended sentences by the Istanbul 4th High Criminal Court. Since the sentences were suspended, they could not be appealed at a regional appeals court but rather at a criminal court. The İstanbul 5th High Criminal Court reviewed the file and overturned the sentences, hearing a retrial itself in which it acquitted the suspects of all the charges leveled against them despite the evidence.

The court did not find M.Ö.’s injuries convincing and said she may have inflicted them herself. The court also questioned the woman’s mental competence, saying she had reportedly sought psychological counselling in the past.

Social media users said the court’s ruling was another example of granting perpetrators of gender-based violence impunity. 

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.

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.

According to women’s rights activists reduced sentences and acquittals in gender-based violence cases became more commonplace after Turkey withdrew from the Istanbul Convention.

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