Religious sect's child bride case starts in Turkey

Religious sect's child bride case starts in Turkey
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Sect leader Yusuf Ziya Gumusel and his "son-in-law" Kadir Istekli face trial for years of rape and abuse of a young girl who was "married off" when she was six years old

The first hearing in the trial of a cult leader who "married off" his six-year-old daughter began Monday as lawyers responded to the ministry's request for a publication ban on the case.

In today's hearing, the court will hear cult leader Yusuf Ziya Gumusel, his wife Fatma Gumusel and his "son-in-law" Kadir Istekli, all of whom are accused of organised paedophilia after a journalist's report in December revealed the story of H.K.G. who informed prosecutors two years ago that she was "married off" by her father at the age of six and suffered years of rape and abuse at the hands of Kadir Istekli, her neighbour and a member of her father's sect.

In her testimony, she described all the details of the sexual abuse, rape and violence during her forced relationship with him. She also presented to the prosecution several photographs showing her with the man, including herself as a child in a wedding dress, as well as a voice recording in which the man admits that he had a sexual relationship with her since she was a child.

In their police statements, Father Gumusel and Istekli denied the accusations.

The hearing was attended by the Turkish Ministry of Family and Social Policy, bar associations, women's and children's rights organizations, representatives of political parties, and numerous lawyers.

However, a request by the ministry to hold the hearing closed and for a broadcast ban caused controversy and strong reactions.

"This is about covering up the case and preventing it from appearing in the news," said lawyer Kardelen Yarli in a recent interview with arti gercek.

Yarli also said that the ministry's goal is to prevent the bad reputation of religious sects.

"After the case has reached this stage and unfortunately many things have already been revealed, it is not in good faith to call for a broadcast ban," she said.