May 15 2019

Second hearing for suspects in Şule Çet murder trial

(Updated with new information in second and third paragraphs.)

Two men suspected of raping and killing 23-year-old student Şule Çet appeared for their second hearing in a trial that has become a focal point for women’s struggle for rights and security in Turkey.

A break in proceedings has been called in order to investigate the location where Çet died, the defendants' phone records, and for a detailed examination of the forensic report.

The judge has also asked for a report to be prepared on Çet's psychological state before her death.

Çet was initially ruled to have committed suicide by jumping out from the 20th storey office of Çağatay Aksu, the owner of the company that had laid off the young student.

However, later investigations showed that it was unlikely Çet had thrown herself from the office, since her fingerprints were not found on its window. An autopsy also uncovered signs she had been raped.

Çet had met Aksu on night of her death in May last year to discuss her problem with the company, which reportedly owed her money. Aksu invited her to a restaurant, where his friend Berk Akand (reported elsewhere as Arand) met the pair, before the three went to the office building.

Hours later, when Akand and Aksu were filmed at the office plaza’s security desk, Çet was lying outside the building, having fallen to her death.

It was already clear during the first hearing in February that the Çet trial will be remarkable for a number of reasons. This is a case that was initially passed off as a suicide, but has come to court after widespread outrage and activisim on social media.

Çet’s death, and the line taken by the defence lawyers during the first hearing, are also felt by many to illustrate the constant danger faced by women in Turkey, where grave crimes committed against women often go unpunished.

In the first hearing, Aksu’s lawyer questioned whether Çet was a virgin and introduced a forensics report stating that her willingness to drink alcohol in private with men amounted to sexual consent.

During the second hearing, Aksu reportedly told Çet’s father, “if only you’d looked after your daughter”, a statement interpreted by many as criticism for allowing Çet to live independently.

From their statements in court, both men expressed their outrage to be standing trial for the girl’s death.

“I didn’t come to this world to rot in prison”, Akand said. “If I wanted to escape, you wouldn’t find a single hair. I demand to be acquitted”.

“I’m tired”, said Aksu. “If you can find evidence, then hang me”, he added, before saying no DNA evidence that incriminated him had been found.

“Is there anything in the reports about rape? I don’t deserve to be in prison”, he said.

The statements made by the defence lawyers painted Çet as a young woman troubled by money problems and trouble at school, who was using medicine that they said could trigger suicidal thoughts in people under 24 years old.

However, the Çet family’s lawyer, Umur Yıldırım, called the suggestion Çet had been suffering from psychological problems “manipulation” and said she was not on any regular programme of medication.

Friends of Çet also testified that she was not having problems at university and showed no sign she was in danger of committing suicide.

The evidence against the two suspects raised in the second hearing included a report that tracers of a tranquiliser drug had been found in Çet’s blood, but not in her belongings or at her home.

Yıldırım suggested the two suspects could have put the drug in Çet’s drink and then disposed od the evidence. This, he said, would explain Akand’s testimony that Aksu had been washing the glasses the three had used after Çet had fallen.

The court ruled that both suspects should remain in prison until the next hearing on July 10.

The second hearing, like the first, attracted intense interest, with crowds of activists and supporters of Çet’s family gathered outside the court.

Proceedings were once again live tweeted by the “Justice for Şule Çet” accounts her family has set up on Twitter. However, this time, the user operating the Turkish account reported that it had been targeted by with a spam attack. A new account was set up, tweeting soon afterwards that the attack during the court hearing had been “no accident”.

Women in the crowd outside the court also reported being harassed, leading to a man being detained and then released, the account reported.