ISTANBUL: A court in Turkey has sentenced a Turkish man to 108 years in jail for sexually assaulting at least eight Syrian children at a flagship refugee camp, reports said on Saturday.
The man, 29, named as Erdal E., worked as a cleaner in the sanitation facilities at the tented camp for refugees in Nizip in Gaziantep province in southern Turkey near the Syrian border.
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He was found guilty of sexually abusing eight Syrian children in the toilets at the camp in exchange for payments of 1.5-5 Turkish lira ($0.5-$1.7), the Dogan news agency said.
His defence had asked for his acquittal, saying an earlier confession to police had been made under duress.
But the judges at the court in Nizip rejected the defence arguments and late Friday sentenced him to 108 years in jail. He was immediately led away to the cells, Dogan said. Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of 289 years.
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Aid groups have warned Syrian children living anywhere as refugees are hugely vulnerable to sexual predators.
The camp, which is home to some 10,800 refugees, has been visited by international dignitaries and is adjacent to another camp for Syrian refugees visited by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in April.
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.
The Birgun newspaper said the accused is suspected of assaulting 30 children although he only went on trial over the abuse of eight as the other families were afraid of being sent back to Syria if they filed complaints.
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It said the victims were aged between 8-12 and all boys.
Turkey's emergencies agency AFAD, which is responsible for the camp, has said it has taken measures to ensure such an incident never happens again.
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