Turkish authorities launch investigation into journalist who reported on rape and murder allegations against AKP deputy

Turkish authorities have launched an investigation into Baransel Ağca, a journalist who reported on rape and murder allegations against ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy Tolga Ağar, the Bianet news website reported.

On May 9 Ağca had revealed an autopsy report for the victim, Yeldana Kaharman, which had some findings suggesting Kaharman was hanged after she was already dead. An investigation was launched a day later into Ağca for “insulting the Turkish president,” because of a tweet he had posted in 2016.

Kaharman, 21, came to Turkey as a university student from Kazakhstan and was found dead in her apartment in eastern Elazığ province on March 28, 2019. She was working as a correspondent for a local TV station.

Allegations were made public by notorious Turkish mob boss Sedat Peker in a video he released on YouTube on May 6. Peker alleged that Kaharman was raped by Ağar and then filed a complaint with the gendarmerie against the ruling party lawmaker a day before she died. The gendarmerie chose not to act on her complaint, the mafia boss claimed, an allegation denied by the gendarmerie command. She had visited Ağar’s home on the day of her complaint to interview him, Peker claimed.

Women’s platforms demanded an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Kaharman’s death. However, the Elazığ Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office said yesterday that Kaharman had committed suicide and that the case was closed.

Media outlets reporting on the allegations have faced pressure from the authorities. Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu targeted the Cumhuriyet daily for reporting the allegations on its front page on May 11.  “Siding with terrorists against our government, the history of the Cumhuriyet daily is dark and dirty. Turkey is not the old Turkey and you will be held accountable before the law,” he said on Twitter.

In February 2020, the Elazığ Criminal Court of Peace had blocked a web page where Kaharman’s death was discussed in Ekşi Sözlük, a Turkish forum where thousands of people share information on various topics.

On March 24, a judge ruled to ban news on the blocking of the web page.

This is not the first case in which a woman linked to an AKP deputy has been found dead and presumed to have committed suicide.

Nadira Kadirova, a 23-year-old woman from Uzbekistan, was found dead in the home of AKP deputy Şirin Ünal, where she was working as a maid, on September 23, 2019. Kadirova had died from gunshot wounds to the chest, and the gun that killed her belonged to Ünal. Nadirova’s death was ruled a suicide and the case was closed.

There were conflicting reports from the crime scene as there had been indications of a struggle in the room and there was no gunshot residue on Kadirova’s hands. There were also puddles of blood in four different parts of the room.

Kadirova’s friends said before her death she told them she had been sexually abused by Ünal.

Women’s activists have argued that Kadirova’s death was highly suspicious and that they feared a coverup. The We Want to Live initiative (Yaşamak İstiyoruz) released a statement and demanded that the truth behind Kadirova’s death be determined.

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