Istanbul nightclub killer goes on trial
The trial opened on Monday of an Uzbek citizen who confessed to killing 39 mainly foreign victims at an Istanbul nightclub in a New Year gun attack claimed by the Islamic State extremist group.
Abdulkadir Masharipov, 34 at the time of the attack, went on trial at the Silivri prison complex outside the center of Istanbul along with 56 other suspects.
Masharipov, who was present in court for the first hearing, faces 40 life sentences, one for each of the victims and the massacre itself.
The others on trial include Masharipov’s wife Zarina Nurullayeva who is a suspected accomplice and risks similar penalties to her husband. All but six are being held in custody.
Masharipov was captured alive in a massive police operation and analysts say his evidence in confessions have helped Turkish authorities break up the elaborate network of jihadist cells in the city.
He is facing charges ranging from attempting to destroy constitutional order, membership of an armed terrorist organisation, to murdering more than one person.
The initial court hearing was closed to the press but sketches showed Masharipov seated between two members of the Turkish gendarmerie.
Samia Maktouf, a lawyer representing a French victim and her Tunisian husband who were killed in the attack, said it was vital that all the circumstances were made clear.
“It is important and legitimate that the families know the true circumstances,” the lawyer said. “It’s extremely important that the tentacles of this international network are dismantled.”
The lawyer confirmed that two French citizens were among the 57 accused.
After taking a taxi to the elite waterside Reina nightclub on the shores of the Bosphorus, Masharipov shot dead the security guard before marching inside and firing indiscriminately with his AK-47 at the terrified revellers and setting off grenades.
With survivors even jumping into the Bosphorus in panic, Masharipov slipped away from the scene as he merged into the crowds, triggering fears he could strike again.
The IS extremist group, which at the time controlled swathes of Turkey’s neighbors Iraq and Syria, later claimed the attack.
After a 17-day manhunt that involved 2,000 police who watched 7,200 hours of video footage, the Turkish authorities detained Masharipov in the residential Istanbul neighbourhood of Esenyurt.
According to the indictment, the order for the Afghanistan-trained Masharipov to carry out the attack was given by a senior Russian Syria-based IS extremist named Islam Atabiev, codenamed Abu Jihad.
Of the 39 killed in the Reina attack, 27 were foreigners including citizens from Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iraq and Morocco who had gone to the club to celebrate New Year. Seventy-nine people were wounded.
Masharipov, who used the IS codename Abu Mohammed Horasani, was just one of several Uzbekistan implicated in jihadist attacks this year.
An Uzbek man in October used a truck to mow people down on a New York street, killing eight. An Uzbek national was arrested after a truck attack in Stockholm in April that killed four people.