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ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A Turkish court sentenced a teacher Wednesday to more than 508 years behind bars for sexually abusing 10 boys under his care at two religious foundations.
The state-run Anadolu Agency said the teacher was sentenced at the first hearing of a case that traumatized the country and led to accusations of a cover-up. He was convicted of the charges of sexually abusing the children, restricting their freedoms, malicious injury, and forcing them to watch pornographic imagery, the agency reported.
The 54-year-old man, named only as "M.B.," was charged with assaulting the boys, aged between 10 and 12, at boarding homes, one of which was run by a foundation linked to Turkey's ruling party.
The man denied the accusation during the trial, claiming that the boys had sexual relations with each other, the private Dogan news agency reported. He also maintained that he had earlier confessed to the crime under police pressure. He was escorted out of the courthouse protected by police holding up shields.
The country's minister for family affairs, Sema Ramazanoglu, sparked an outcry after she described the assaults as a one-time event and accused opposition parties of trying to besmirch the government-linked Ensar Foundation.
The minister later survived a censure motion in parliament submitted by the opposition, which accused her of negligence in preventing violence against women and children.
Lawyer Oktay Yilmaz, representing five of the boys, said criminal complaints have also been filed against the two foundations.