Turkish court hands life sentence to main suspect in nightclub shooting

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A Turkish court sentenced a man to life imprisonment on Monday for killing 39 people in a gun attack at an Istanbul nightclub on New Year’s Day, 2017, Turkey’s state-owned Anadolu news agency reported.

Abdulkadir Masharipov, an Uzbek national, was handed the equivalent of 40 life sentences without parole for the killings at the Reina night club and for violating the constitution, Anadolu said, after a trial that lasted nearly three years.

The court also sentenced him to an additional 1,368 years in prison for the attempted murder of 79 other people and for carrying an unlicensed weapon, Anadolu said.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack at the time, saying it was an act of revenge for Turkey’s military involvement in Syria, and Turkish police said Masharipov had acted on the militant group’s behalf.

Masharipov initially admitted guilt for the attack in his statement to police but later pleaded his innocence, disputing the evidence against him and saying he was not the person photographed holding an assault rifle in the club.

The attacker opened fire in the night club with an automatic rifle, throwing stun grenades to allow himself to reload and shooting the wounded on the ground. Victims included Turks, Arabs, Canadians and Indians.

The same court sentenced a second man, Ilyas Mamasaripov, who is believed to have helped plan the attack, to more than 1,400 years in prison for assisting murder and attempted murder and aiding the violation of the constitution, Anadolu reported.

It said 48 other defendants were sentenced to jail terms of varying lengths for membership of a terrorist organisation. Eleven other defendants were acquitted of all charges, it added.

Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Gareth Jones