The Istanbul forensic board, which previously facilitated the release of a columnist accused of sexual abuse by deciding the young girl was not traumatized, has come under fire again. The board’s latest report on a girl who was abused for five years declared the girl unharmed, resulting once again in the suspect’s release.
According to reports, a 14-year-old girl in Istanbul went to her aunt last August and told her their 57-year-old neighbor had been verbally and physically sexually abusing her for the past five years and that she had said nothing until now because she was scared.
When the local prosecutor learned, he ordered an inquiry and asked the police to try to catch him in the act. A few days after the complaint, three police officers dressed in civilian clothing followed the girl and saw the neighbor push the girl into a vacant building, touch and verbally abuse her and then offer her money. The man was detained immediately.
In their report dated Dec. 20, 2008, the Sixth Forensic Board unanimously decided that the girl was not traumatized. At the trial Jan. 15, the court in Istanbul’s Kartal district was presented with the report and released the suspect pending the trial.
The girl’s uncle said the forensic board had examined his niece for only six minutes before deciding she was not traumatized. The next court session will be held March 10.
Not guilty plea for alleged sexual abuse of minor
Last year, 76-year-old Hüseyin Üzmez, a columnist at conservative Vakit daily, was accused of sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl. He pleaded not guilty. Üzmez was accused of abusing the girl in the indictment, on several occasions in Istanbul and Bursa provinces. The same forensic board in a report last year decided the girl in question was not traumatized, resulting in the release of the columnist pending his trial.
After his release Oct. 28, Üzmez publicly defended Islamic rules that permit girls to wed below the legal age of 16. "A girl who has reached puberty, who’s having periods, is of age according to our beliefs," Üzmez told national television the day he was released. "And if she’s of age, she can marry."
His release and his statements created a huge uproar around the nation. Female lawmakers from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party, or AKP, responded by proposing laws doubling prison sentences for child abuse.
Children’s room at forensic board offices
The forensic board under fire has prepared a new room for children, with toys and other gear, where experts can question the victims in a friendlier atmosphere.
Talking to Akşam daily, the head of the forensic board, Dr. Keramettin Kurt, said psychiatrists Dr. Ayten Erdoğan and Dr. Ahmet Çevikarslan are responsible for the room and question victims there. "When the board meets, 15 to 20 children are questioned there. The children do not see the whole board. Experts play with children and get an idea about their state of mind."
He said the forensic board had become a scapegoat in the Üzmez affair, blaming the court for the release. "There was some confusion about the age of the child. If she is 14, the crime is sexual abuse of a child, if she is 15, it is sexual abuse of an adult," he said.
Only after Üzmez was released did the court get a report saying that the girl was 14, he said. "The release was not based on the report. Moreover, the reports are not binding," said Kurt. He also responded to criticisms that the board did not include a child psychologist, arguing, "There are about 70 child psychologists in Turkey and most prefer to work in the private sector."