Turkish social media users spoke out on June 29 against the release of mother Merve A. and stepfather Rahmi A. despite accusations from their children that the couple "sold" them for sex, as well as physically and sexually abused them.
The six and nine-year-olds reported the assault they endured in May 2020 after their grandmother petitioned the western Balıkesir prosecutor with suspicions that the children were being sexually abused.
The children wrote a haunting letter and drew pictures detailing the abuse they endured, saying that their mother "sold" them, meaning she allowed the couple's friends to abuse the children in exchange for money.
The letter also noted that the kids' aunt tried to prevent the abuse but that their mother told the abusers to continue, and that the mother Merve A. watched the children get abused by the stepfather and his friends.
The stepfather Rahmi A. also assaulted the children, the kids said, alongside three of his adult friends.
The children also depicted their mother beating them with a rolling pin and a phone charger.
The children's case created widespread protest among the public at the time of its revelation with the name Elmalı Lawsuit after the district of Mediterranean Antalya where the children lived.
The children started receiving counseling upon their reports in May 2020, and the first hearing for their case was held in October of 2020, the Labor, Family and Social Services Ministry reported in a statement they released on June 29 upon widespread protest about the case on social media.
The mother Merve A. and the stepfather Rahmi A. were arrested in the first hearing on October 16, 2020, but were released pending conviction in the third hearing on Jan. 5 despite forensic examinations that confirmed the children were sexually abused.
The Family Ministry's attorneys protested the court's ruling to release the perpetrators, the statement noted, adding that the lawyers petitioned the court for the assailants' arrest in the third hearing on March 5.
The ministry repeated their petition for the couple's arrest during a May 21 hearing, the statement noted, adding that the state was "continuing to support the children with social service models during this traumatic time."
The Elmalı Chief Public Prosecutor's Office also noted in a June 29 statement that they had petitioned for the continued imprisonment of the perpetrators, adding that the next hearing would be held on Sept. 17.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Spokesperson Ömer Çelik said on June 29 that the state was still involved in the legal proceedings and that the children were "safe," although he didn't specify who had custody of the minors.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently withdrew Turkey from Istanbul Convention, an international document that protects women and children against domestic violence.