Turkish court acquits sexual assault suspect despite compelling evidence 

A Turkish court on Tuesday acquitted a man accused of sexually assaulting a mentally disabled woman despite compelling evidence against him, the BirGün daily reported.

Ali Akbal, employed as a driver for a private rehabilitation center in Ankara’s Mamak district, allegedly sexually assaulted 20-year-old B.A. on February 2 and February 9, 2022. Following the incidents, both the rehabilitation center and B.A.’s parents lodged a complaint against the driver, prompting an investigation by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. On February 25, 2022 Akbal was arrested and subsequently incarcerated.

During the investigations it was discovered that Akbal had transported B.A. to a secluded location where the assaults took place inside the van. He reportedly threatened B.A. with a knife and ordered her to keep silent about the assault. Medical examinations confirmed the sexual assaults, while a separate assessment affirmed her cognitive capacity to comprehend the incidents.

In December 2022 Akbal was sentenced to more than 28 years in prison on conviction of “deprivation of liberty,” “threatening with a weapon” and “sexual assault.” Akbal appealed the verdict, after which the Ankara Regional Appeals Court overturned the ruling. The case went to retrial and Akbal was acquitted by the Ankara 32nd Penal Court.

Turkey’s authorities are often accused of inaction in the face of violent crimes such as murders, femicides and sexual assault. 

In some cases, the alleged perpetrators are only taken into custody after widespread public outcry on social media, leading to comments such as “Twitter court.”

The climate of impunity is also reinforced by the lenient sentences handed down by the courts after a decrease in the public interest.

In February 63 bar associations across Turkey released a joint statement calling on the government to repeal laws that create a perception of impunity among the public by granting lenient sentences to criminals.

The statement pointed out recent cases where criminal offenders responsible for acts that caused widespread public outrage were revealed to be free despite having prior criminal records.

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