Inquiry into police malpractice in femicide case blocked by governor’s office

Emine Bulut
Emine Bulut

A formal inquiry into police officers who failed to pursue a complaint filed by Emine Bulut (38), who was later stabbed to death by her ex-husband, has been blocked by the Kırıkkale Governor’s Office, according to the Turkish media.

Bulut was fatally stabbed by her former husband, Fedai Varan, in the Central Anatolian city of Kırıkkale on October 21, 2019. Varan was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to life in prison.

Shortly after Bulut’s death, it was discovered that she had sought help from the police, fearing her estranged spouse would harm her. In fact, she went to the Kırıkkale police station only four hours before Varan murdered her.

Yet, the police did not launch any formal investigation into her complaint and did not make any official applications to the prosecutor’s office for her protection. Bulut was sent home only to be murdered a few hours later.

Domestic violence is one of the most serious human rights issues in Turkey. The number of Turkish women who have suffered from domestic abuse surged 50 percent, from 145,000 in 2015 to nearly 220,000, in 2018, according to Interior Ministry data.

Most advocacy groups agree that a key reason for Turkey’s domestic violence problem is the failure of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to implement relevant laws, particularly the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combatting violence against women and domestic violence — also known as the Istanbul Convention — and a 2012 law to curb violence against women.

The prosecutor’s office initiated an investigation into possible negligence and malpractice on the part of the police officers. The chief public prosecutor’s office demanded that the policemen be interviewed on how they handled Bulut’s complaint. It is still unclear why Emine Bulut did not sign the official police document that was prepared based on her complaint about her ex-husband. The prosecutor’s office demanded to know if this was due to the negligence of the four policemen who had interviewed her.

The policemen were questioned about their intentions and conduct. According to a January 2020 news story by Gazete Karınca chief of police S. prepared an official report after Bulut left the police station. In his report, he noted that he did not find any risk of violence and saw no reason for precautionary action to be taken. Yet, upon questioning, police chief S. this time said Bulut did not ask for any kind of protection. According to his account, Bulut only came to the police station to report that she was being stalked and insulted by her ex-husband and that she did not request protection.

However, according to the official report, Emine Bulut had complained that she had argued with her ex-husband in public and that he had stalked and insulted her. During 29 minutes of questioning she had also shown them the insulting text messages her ex-husband had sent her.

The prosecutor’s office examined a camera recording that show Emine Bulut entering the police station and leaving 29 minutes later. According to the recording, Bulut left the police station at 2:49 p.m. The report on Bulut’s complaints against her husband was written at 3:00 p.m., 11 minutes after she had left, and was not signed by Bulut. This brought up the question as to whether the report was prepared after her death to cover up police misconduct. According to police protocol, even if Bulut did not want to sign the document, the police were obligated to note that she had refused to sign.

The Kırıkkale Governor’s Office blocked any kind of further investigation into the case, arguing that Bulut did not apply for protection and that it could not be concluded that the police had committed any wrongdoing.

Ersoy Aytaç, the lawyer who filed the original complaint against the police, objected to the decision. His objection will be reviewed by the Ankara District Administrative Court.

The Istanbul Convention, the first European treaty specifically targeting violence against women and domestic violence, was opened for signature in May 2011 in Istanbul and entered into force in August 2014. No state has ever withdrawn from it.

The convention, which has been signed by 45 of the Council of Europe member states and ratified by 34 of them, has split views inside Turkey’s ruling party, with conservative circles claiming that it will destroy families by introducing “foreign terminology” to traditional Turkish values and the law.

Commenting on Turkey’s ratification of the Istanbul Convention, AKP Deputy Chair Numan Kurtulmuş had earlier said it was wrong to become a party to the convention, indicating that the government might consider withdrawing from it.

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