ISTANBUL – A Turkish court on Monday sentenced an Islamic State suspect to life in prison over the New Year’s Eve attack on a nightclub in Istanbul that left 39 people dead in 2017.
The suspect, Albulkadir Masharipov of Uzbekistan, was convicted of 39 counts of murder and one count of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order. He was handed 40 separate life sentences without parole. The court also sentenced him to a total of 1,368 years in prison for the attempted murder of 79 people who escaped the attack with injuries.
Ilyas Mamasaripov, who was accused of aiding Masharipov, was sentenced to a total of 1,432 years, on charges of aiding murder, aiding attempted murder and aiding an attempt against the constitutional order, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
Of the 58 other defendants i the case, eleven were acquitted of the charges, while others received various sentences for membership in a terror organization, the agency said.
Early on Jan. 1, 2017, an assailant shot his way into Istanbul’s Reina nightclub where hundreds were partying to celebrate the New Year. The assailant escaped from the scene and the Islamic State group later claimed the massacre.
Several revelers jumped into the waters of the Bosporus to escape the attack. Most of the dead were foreigners.
Police arrested Masharipov in a police raid 15 days after the attack. Masharipov initially admitted that he had carried out the attack but later denied the charges against him, Anadolu reported.
In his final words of defense on Monday, Masharipov asked that he be acquitted, saying his initial testimonies were taken under “torture and pressure." He insisted there was insufficient evidence against him, Anadolu said.
He is expected to appeal his conviction.
A lawyer representing Ali Akyil, the father of one victim, said her client would seek compensation for the loss of his son, Kerim.
“Obviously, as nothing would ease his pain, he found the punishment to be lacking,” Ruya Beril Calis told The Associated Press. “With this in mind, we are continuing our process of legal compensation.”
Kerim Akyil, a dual Turkish-Belgian citizen, had traveled to Istanbul from Belgium to celebrate the New Year at Reina, Calis said.
Turkey has been hit by a string of attacks since 2015 by Kurdish militants and IS extremists that have left more than 300 people dead.