Defendant in murder trial changes story to say killing was linked to love affair

A law student on trial for murdering his adviser has changed his testimony during the first hearing of his trial to claim he had had a romantic relationship with the murdered academic, Turkish left-wing daily BirGün reported.

Prosecutors are seeking a life sentence for İsmail Hikmet, who shot Çankaya University academic Ceren Damar Şenel in her room twice before stabbing her 17 times, killing her, on January 2.

The student had confessed to police that he killed Şenel because she had repeatedly reported on him for cheating on exams.

Hikmet reportedly told a friend he planned to kill the academic after she reported him for cheating a final time on the day of the murder, before taking a gun from his father’s house.

In a suicide note left with his parents, the student complained that his life at university had been unhappy due to his inability to keep up with the high workload, and said he had been harassed by Şenel.

But in his testimony at this week’s hearing, Hikmet changed his story to say the harassment had been triggered by a romantic relationship with his married academic adviser.

The student said Şenel had begun reporting him for academic cheating after he tried to keep his distance from her, BirGün reported.

“This kind of change (in testimony) is one that defendants in femicide trials use often in an attempt to save themselves”, lawyer Zekiye Boz Karaca told BirGün.

Courts in Turkey frequently hand out reduced sentences to male killers in femicide cases when they testify that the crime was committed after “unjust provocation”, the lawyer said.

“This defence may not come to the killers’ mind when they first give their testimony, but it often takes shape after they receive advice while in jail”, said Karaca. "We are facing a defence developed through male solidarity."

Violence against women is an urgent problem in Turkey, where 440 women were killed by men in 2018 and 36 women were killed in April this year alone.

Women’s rights groups have called on Turkey’s government to take concrete steps to implement landmark legislation adopted in 2011 to combat the problem.