A court in the Central Anatolian province of Konya has sentenced a self-named “sheikh” to 55 years in prison for sexually abusing four young men, Demirören news agency reported on Oct. 5.
The case concerns the retrial of Süleyman Işık, who was initially sentenced to 62 years in prison for sexually abusing five young men between 2008 and 2017, who were between 17 and 22 years old at the time of the abuse.
The charges against Işık were brought upon the complaints of the five male witnesses, who said that they had been assaulted while attending the suspect's religious classes.
Despite the 2018 conviction of the self-proclaimed “sheikh,” the Court of Cassation, the highest court of appeal in Turkey, on Feb. 11 reversed the judgment of the Konya 1st Heavy Penal Court, saying that the plaintiffs had “consented” to the sexual exploitation.
On the same day, the Court of Cassation ruled for the release of Işık and sent a copy of its decision to the local court.
In a retrial of the case, the Konya 1st Heavy Penal Court stood behind its initial decision, this time sentencing Işık to 55 years in prison on charges of sexually abusing four young men, as one of the plaintiffs was left out of the case for not appealing the decision on time.
During the final hearing of the case on Oct. 1, Işık rejected the charges and demanded his acquittal.
Lawyer Hakkı Ünalmış said that the self-proclaimed “sheikh” had left the community under such a pressure that the sexually abused men “were even trembling before him at the courtroom.”
Ünalmış said that the young men had waited for a long time to press charges against Işık since they were scared of “standing up against a spiritually massive sheikh.” On top of that, Işık had threatened the young men with physical violence, Ünalmış said.
The lawyer also said that Işık is currently roaming free since the local court's reasoned decision has not been yet issued. “Once it is issued, I will file another application for his arrest,” Ünalmış said.