Turkish sergeant detained on sexual assault charges after public outcry

A court in southeastern Turkish province of Siirt on Wednesday issued an arrest warrant for a sergeant as part of a sexual assault investigation in neighbouring Batman province.

Musa Orhan turned himself in to the police later during the day, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

Orhan is accused of sexually assaulting an 18-year-old, who attempted suicide on July 16 and died in a hospital where she was receiving treatment on Monday, in a case that has made headlines in Turkey.

The case led to public outcry and a social media campaign calling for Orhan’s arrest.

The sergeant had been detained briefly, based on the victim’s suicide note, but was released on parole despite a medical report confirming sexual assault.

The incident has sparked outrage on Turkish social media, adding to a recent string of high-profile violent crimes against women and girls.

The Chairwoman of the Main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) Women’s Branches, Aylin Nazlıaka, has said Orhan had held the victim against her will for 20 days, and later boasted that she could not do anything to stop him.

“Complain to whichever (authority) you want, I’ve done this before many times, nothing happened,” Nazlıaka cited the sergeant as saying on Twitter.

In July, pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Feleknas Uca had submitted a parliamentary inquiry on the assault, asking Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül why the suspect had been released despite the evidence.

Uca said Orhan’s release encouraged criminals, and stressed the increase in sexual violence committed by members of the Turkish armed forces.

“Are the harassment and assault crimes committed in Kurdish-majority provinces by specialist sergeants in recent months a coincidence?” news website Yolculuk cited Uca as asking, “Or is abuse committed in Kurdish provinces being overlooked?”

HDP Spokeswoman Ayşe Acar Başaran in a July briefing spoke about cases of sexual assault against minors by Turkish military officers, and called the crimes a “method of special warfare,” pro-Kurdish Fırat News Agency reported.

Başaran cited the case involving Orhan, as well as a 13-year-old girl in Şırnak who was assaulted by another sergeant in July.

Gulan Gök Aydın, lawyer for İ.E.’s family, said the first indictment against Orhan was dismissed based on improper procedure.

“There should have been an expert psychologist present during testimony,” Aydın told daily BirGün. “But there wasn’t, so the court dismissed the indictment.”

Orhan could use his influence as an army officer to obscure evidence, lawyer Nesrin Bilge from the Human Right Association (İHD) Batman chapter’s women’s commission said.

“We are ashamed of this crooked justice system of yours that protects public officers and necessitates social media efforts to arrest a sergeant,” CHP deputy Özgür Özel said in a tweet.

A news website run by Kurdish women journalists had published the victim's letter in full, where she detailed the alleged abduction and assault, and interviewed the victim’s mother, Hakime Kılıç.

“All of this has happened because of the authority (Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan) gave to specialist sergeants,” Kılıç had told Jin News.

“Soldiers terrorise everybody here,” she said. “They bother and harass our girls.”

Turkey banned access to Jin News by a court order on Aug. 14 following their publication of similar articles.