Turkey showpiece Syrian refugee camp hit by child sex assault case

12th May 2016, Comments 0 comments

A Turkish man has gone on trial in southern Turkey charged with sexually assaulting at least eight Syrian children at the refugee camp where he was working, reports and official sources said on Thursday.

Turkey's emergencies agency AFAD, which is responsible for the camp, said in a statement it was aware of the man's arrest and was following the case closely.

The crimes are alleged to have taken place at the tented camp for refugees in the district of Nizip in Gaziantep province in southern Turkey, close to the Syrian border.

The camp, which is home to some 10,800 refugees, has been visited by international ministers and is also adjacent to the Nizip tent city for Syrian refugees which was visited by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu last month.

The Dogan news agency reported said that the suspect -- identified as a toilet cleaner at the camp named Erdal E. -- was arrested in September 2015 by security forces acting on a tip-off.

He is accused of seeking to attract the children into the lavatories at the camp by offering small amounts of money of up to five lira ($1.7) and then sexually abusing them.

The suspect, who denies the charges and says a previous statement was made under duress, went on trial at the Nizip criminal court, Dogan said.

Prosecutors have asked for him to be given a total sentence of 289 years in jail, it added. The hearing was adjourned but the suspect remains in custody.

AFAD said in a statement on its website that it had been closely following the case "from the first day" and the man had no criminal record at the time he was hired.

"AFAD has taken measures to prevent these incidents from happening again," it said, confirming he had been arrested in 2015.

The Birgun newspaper said the accused is suspected of assaulting 30 children although he is only on trial over the abuse of eight individuals in the current trial as the other families were afraid of filing complaints.

This is believed to be the first time that details of the case -- the first such reported incident in a Syrian refugee camp in Turkey -- have been made public.

A delegation from the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) migration commission will visit the camp Friday to investigate the incidents, the party's deputy chairman Veli Agbaba announced on its Twitter account.

Agbaba said in a statement that the assaults involved children aged eight to 12 and that a full parliamentary cross-party commission should be set up.

Turkey is hosting over 2.7 million refugees from the conflict in neighbouring Syria. Only a quarter of a million live in refugee camps, with the rest living in Turkish towns and cities.

© 2016 AFP

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