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Turkish court acquits man suspected of murdering Russian feminist activist

A court in the eastern Turkish city of Erzurum has acquitted Syrian national Mohammad Nizar Arnabeh, who was accused of murdering Russian feminist activist Anastasia Emelyanova. The independent Russian media outlet Mediazona first reported the story, citing Yulia Safronova, a friend of the deceased.

The 32-year-old Emelyanova was killed in September 2023 in Erzurum, where she had moved with her fiancé, 29-year-old Mohammad Arnabeh, a month prior to the incident.

The woman’s bloodied body was found on the floor of the apartment where the couple lived. Arnabeh was then charged with premeditated murder. According to the investigators' version, he beat Emelyanova and cut her leg with a piece of glass, causing the woman to bleed to death.

Arnabeh denied the murder charges, but local women's rights activists said he changed his testimony several times over the course of the criminal investigation into the activist's death.

Arnabeh initially claimed that he accidentally pushed Emelyanova during an argument, after which she fell on a glass table. Then he admitted to striking her with a piece of glass, but later retracted this testimony, instead claiming that he was not at home on the day of the murder.

The Erzurum 1st High Criminal Court found Arnabeh not guilty of intentionally killing Emelyanova — a crime punishable by life imprisonment. According to a report by the Turkish daily newspaper Hürriyet, the case was dismissed due to a “lack of evidence.”

Emelyanova’s attorney, Begüm Osma, one of the volunteer lawyers of the Women and Children First Association, was cited by Hurriyet as saying she intends to appeal the decision:

“We witnessed a trial in which the defendant was rewarded while there was so much doubt in our favor and there was no other perpetrator. We do not yet know the reason for this decision, we do not know if there is any comment [from the court]. [...] We are faced with an acquittal decision that we never expected. This is not the end. The decision is not final. We will use our right of appeal.”

Emelyanova left Russia for Turkey in 2022, where she met Arnabeh. She was involved in feminist and anti-war activism, helped with gender equality projects such as “Eve's Ribs” and “Open Space,” and was one of the hosts of the YouTube channel Feminists Explain (“Feministki Poyasnyaut”), which published videos “about current women's issues in Russia and around the world.”

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