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Lawyers: Abused Turkish woman in hiding

  • Story Highlights
  • European court rules Turkey failed to protect a woman from abusive ex-husband
  • Experts: Ruling sets precedent in Europe for governments to protect women
  • European Court of Human Rights awards victim 30,000 euros in damages
  • In case, man attacked ex-wife, killed former mother-in-law, court documents say
By Ivan Watson and Yesim Comert
CNN
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ISTANBUL, Turkey (CNN) -- Lawyers say the winner of a landmark case that makes governments responsible for protecting women from domestic abuse is living in hiding, terrified that her ex-husband will hunt her down and kill her.

In 2002, Nahide Opuz's ex-husband, Huseyin Opuz, shot and killed her mother in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir. Prior to that, he ran over the two women once with a car, and in a separate assault, stabbed Nahide Opuz seven times with a knife.

Police detained the assailant after both incidents and then released him after fining him. Huseyin Opuz remains free after serving six years for the killing of his mother-in-law.

Nahide Opuz won a case in the European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday against the government of Turkey. The judges unanimously ruled that Turkish authorities failed to protect her and her mother from domestic violence.

Nahide Opuz has refused requests for interviews, her lawyers said, because she was terrified she could be attacked again.

"She is constantly on the run, she is changing her location," Mesut Bestas, her attorney, told CNN. "She is really happy about the decision. She said if this decision is going to contribute to women's rights, she will be happy."

A court spokesman said this was the first time the court ruled a government had violated Article 14 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which prohibits discrimination in connection with a domestic abuse case.

"The ruling is pretty clear," said Stefano Pidimonte, a court spokesman. "If domestic authorities know about this type of situation and don't do anything to prevent them, to protect the people, they're likely to be brought before our court and it's likely the court will rule in a similar way."

The decision has implications not only for Turkey, but for other European governments that are signatories of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Before fleeing to an undisclosed location, Bestas said, Opuz had to leave her three children behind with her father-in-law -- who was also providing housing for his son, Huseyin Opuz.

"(Nahide Opuz) said, 'I'm trying to keep myself alive. I don't think they will give the children back to me,'" Bestas said, adding that Turkish authorities have repeatedly denied requests for protection for her.

CNN could not confirm the claim and Huseyin Opuz could not be reached for comment. Justice Ministry officials and representatives of the local government in Diyarbakir also declined to comment on his current status.

The Turkish government has three months to consider if it will appeal the European Court decision, said Burak Ozugergin, a spokesman for Turkey's foreign ministry.

The ruling awards some 36,000 euros to Nahide Opuz. It also potentially puts the onus on governments to be more proactive in protecting women from domestic abuse and honor killings.

"It is not only here that we will feel the results of it," said Ozugergin. "Everywhere in Europe they must take account of this ruling."

Four out of 10 Turkish women surveyed said they have been beaten by their husbands, according to a recently-published Turkish government study.

All About TurkeyEuropean Court of Human RightsDomestic Violence

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