Turkish court sentences student who killed academic to life in prison

An Istanbul court on Friday sentenced a man to life in prison without parole for killing a research assistant at Ankara’s Çankaya University.

Twenty-three year-old Ceren Damar Şenel was beaten, stabbed and shot to death in her office at Çankaya University's Faculty of Law, after she caught her student Hasan İsmail Hikmet cheating.

Hikmet was charged with premeditated murder of a public servant after he confessed to the police to killing Damar Şenel. The court refused Hikmet’s requests for a reduced sentence, news site Duvar reported.  

Hikmet received separate sentences of one year in prison for possession of an unregistered firearm, and two years in prison for threatening a student with a gun. 

Throughout the trial, Hikmet claimed to have had romantic relationship with Damar Şenel. In the final hearing, Hikmet’s lawyer Vahit Bıçak said the research assistant had been “turned on by Hikmet's swimmer's body" and used her position of power to engage in an inappropriate relationship with him.

“The victim could have faced charges of sexual assault were she still alive,” Bıçak said.

The prosecution in a previous hearing said Hikmet’s claims had no basis in fact, and were aimed at reducing his sentence.

Lawyer Bıçak said Hikmet, who he called a “polite and respectful boy,” could have committed a massacre, but didn’t. 

“I will give you a lesson in law,” Bıçak said. “The defendant could have gone to the cafeteria and emptied his gun (on people). The defendant did not commit a massacre. He did not go on a shooting spree. He did not enter the faculty lounge to shoot anybody he ran into.”

Bıçak said the government had influenced the court, when important names in Turkish politics, including Presidential Spokesman İbrahim Kalın, recorded a song commemorating the murdered woman on the anniversary of her death.

Conditions have been met for the defendant to be reintroduced to society, Bıçak said, and called for Hikmet’s acquittal. Damar Şenel’s lawyers objected, saying Bıçak’s statements violated the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, better known as the Istanbul Convention.

The Ankara Bar Association launched an investigation against the defendant’s lawyer Vahit Bıçak for misconduct based on his statements during the trial.

The court has disregarded efforts to win at any cost, Turkey’s Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gül said in a tweet, referring to Bıçak’s defence, and “protected the memory of an innocent woman, and not allowed the violation of human dignity.” 

“My daughter was murdered in a monstrous manner,” father Mustafa Damar said. “They spilled my daughter’s blood, and on top of it slandered her honour.”