Defendant accused of murdering trans woman Çağla Joker gets a sentence reduction because of his age, then a reduction for having been ‘unjustly provoked’

In the case of Çağla Joker, the victim of a hate-crime killing in Beyoğlu last April, the court reduced the defendant’s sentence to ten years on the grounds of “unjust provocation.”

Source: Burcu Karakaş, “Çağla Joker’in katil zanlısına yaş indiriminden sonra bir de ‘haksız tahrik’ indirimi” (“Defendant accused of murdering Çağla Joker gets a sentence reduction because of his age, then a reduction for having been ‘unjustly provoked'”), Diken, 1 October 2015. http://www.diken.com.tr/cagla-jokerin-katil-zanlisina-yas-indiriminden-sonra-bir-de-haksiz-tahrik-indirimi/

Trans women Çağla Joker and Nalan suffered an armed attack in Tarlabaşı on the night of 20 April [2014], and 25-year-old Çağla Joker, wounded in the chest, lost her life at the site of the incident. H.T., sentenced to 16 years and getting a reduction for being 17 years old, said in testimony given in court:

“We met two persons who we supposed were women. We negotiated. He said he was a man. I asked him to give me back the money I had paid. He said he would not return the money and cursed vehemently.”

Though tried for intentional homicide and life in prison, the court reduced the sentence to 10 years in prison due to reductions for “unjust provocation,” “good behavior,” and on account of him being younger than 18.

Not returning the 50 liras was an unjust provocation

In its decision, the judicial panel gave its opinion that Çağla Joker’s failure to return the money that the defendant had paid constituted an unjust provocation. The following phrases appeared in the reasoning:

“The defendant wanted the 50 liras back, and when at every stage he demanded its return, the deceased asserted that they would not return the money; confronted with the declarations of the deceased, the defendant came under the influence of anger and distress, and under the influence of anger and distress drew his weapon.”

These punishments will not be effective in ending the murders

Lawyer Fırat Söyle, commenting on the decision for Diken, emphasized that the sentence reductions being applied to defendants accused of hate crimes would not help to end the murders, and said:

“Inflicting very severe penalties on those who act out of the hatred engendered by government and society will not put an end to hate-crime killings, nevertheless, we demand that the severest penalties be inflicted on defendants accused of hate-crime killings, in the name of satisfying a sense of justice within this system. Unless the material and moral culture of the government system and of society changes, the punishments handed down to defendants will, unfortunately, be ineffective in ending these murders.”

No one has taken ownership of the case

On the other hand, reacting to the fact that no one has taken ownership of the case, Söyle continued as follows:

“The slogans that slam the government, patriarchy, and transphobia, and the statements made by the press, fade away before three days have passed, and even before seven days have gone by, they are forgotten. Çağla, and people like Çağla, were not organized, and their circle was not ‘extensive.’ Çağlas are destitute people, and those who are left behind to weep and mourn for them are those who are like them. In the newspapers they get a single mention on the third page at most. The reactions immediately following their murders end up buried in deep silence as the trials progress.”

*Translator’s Note: The Turkish language does not have gender pronouns and translation into languages with gender pronouns poses a challenge. In this translation, we have opted to use several pronouns to describe the victim. In statements by the perpetrator, we used the pronoun “he” because the perpetrator argues that the victim was male. In statements by the court, we used the pronoun “they” because the sentences do not make clear how the court views the victim’s gender. This choice does not reflect an openness by the court to identify the victim as the gender-neutral pronoun “they,” but to reflect that the Turkish language does not have gender pronouns. In the journalist Burcu Karakaş’s narration, we have chosen the pronoun “she” as the journalist works on women’s and LGBTI rights issues.

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