Lawyer says Turkish authorities have barred access to investigation into Gabonese student’s death

The lawyer representing the family of a 17-year-old Gabonese student who was allegedly murdered in northwestern Turkey said in a statement to the Turkish media that authorities have not allowed him access to the investigation file, the Duvar news website reported.

The body of Jeannah Danys Dinabongho Ibouanga, a student of mechanical engineering at Karabük University, was found in the Filyos River on March 26. Kerim Bahadır Şeker, who represents the young woman’s family and the Gabonese Embassy in Ankara, said the prosecutor’s office had placed a confidentiality order on the investigation and did not involve him in the process. 

“Although the family has designated me as their lawyer, the prosecutor’s office has denied me access to the investigation file,” he said. “Unfortunately, I don’t think this is innocent, and I believe the prosecutor’s office has ulterior motives and is involved in a cover-up.”

Şeker had previously pointed out the inconsistencies in Ibouanga’s autopsy report and the prosecutor’s office’s statement. The Karabük Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office said based on the initial autopsy report that she had drowned and that there were no signs of violence or sexual abuse on her body.

According to Şeker there was no reference to the death of Ibouanga by drowning in the initial autopsy report, hence it was unacceptable for the prosecutor’s office to present drowning as the cause of death. Şeker said the prosecutor’s office should have waited until the final autopsy report was released, adding that since the woman was 17 years old, there could be legal consequences if she had been subjected to sexual abuse.

Şeker drew attention to claims that the alleged murder had been racially motivated and added that the university financially profited from foreign students; therefore, they wanted to silence these claims.

“There are currently 12,000 foreign students studying at Karabük University, 6,000 of whom are from African countries,” he said. “Dina’s [Ibouanga] friends are being pressured not to talk about her death.” 

Şeker claimed the university told foreign student representatives that if they were to speak publicly about Ibouanga’s death, they would be deported. “The university is more interested in protecting its image than protecting its students,” he added. 

Ibouanga’s death has been shrouded in mystery. Authorities detained eight men in relation to the young woman’s alleged murder, and while seven of them were released, a man named Dursun Acar was arrested on April 10.

Demirören News Agency (DHA) reporter Ali Sencar Arslan was detained on April 4 after sharing video footage of Ibouanga’s final hours. Images showed her running barefoot in the street. The footage was captured on a security camera of a housing complex. The reporter was detained for publishing these images but released after giving his testimony. 

Previously, Ibouanga’s family revealed the voice messages she had sent to her mother in Gabon one day before her death. In these messages, she talked about being mistreated in Karabük and said that she could be killed at any time.

Meanwhile, foreign students said they could not get information from the authorities about Dinabongho’s death and staged a protest on the university campus. Both her family members and her friends said the alleged murder might have been racially motivated.

Moreover, opposition politicians have argued that investigations into the circumstances surrounding the Gabonese student’s death had not been effective because the woman was black and called on Turkish authorities to carry out a thorough investigation into the incident. 

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