First Published: 2017-12-11

Istanbul nightclub gunman refuses to testify
Uzbek terrorist who gunned down 39 people at Istanbul nightclub refuses to testify as trial begins where he faces 40 life sentences.
Middle East Online

The others on trial include Masharipov's wife who is a suspected accomplice

SILIVRI - An Uzbek jihadist who confessed to killing 39 people at an Istanbul nightclub in a New Year gun attack refused to testify Monday on the first day of his trial as his wife denied any links to extremists.

Abdulkadir Masharipov, 34 at the time of the attack, went on trial at the Silivri prison complex near Istanbul along with 56 other suspects.

Masharipov, who was present in court, 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 is facing charges ranging from "attempting to destroy constitutional order" and "membership of an armed terrorist organisation", to "murdering more than one person".

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.

Masharipov -- dressed in a sweater and jeans -- was seated between two members of the Turkish gendarmerie and kept well away from the other defendants in court.

When given the chance to speak by the judge, he used his right to silence and refused to testify, speaking in Uzbek translated into Turkish.

- 'He didn't tell me anything' -

Nurullayeva, in her testimony, said she had "never had any links with any terror group".

She described herself as a "woman who looked after her kids and who stayed under the shadow of her husband."

She said she only found out her husband had carried out the attack when she was arrested by police, saying he had left home several days before the New Year.

Until now, she had not set eyes on him since.

Asked whether she ever considered why they were in Turkey, she replied: "My husband was discreet. He didn't tell me anything. When I asked he used to say: 'Don't interfere in men's affairs'."

She said two men had come and taken her son Mohammed before her own arrest but she had no news about the child.

Giving his only statement of the day, Masharipov interjected that he did not know who had taken in Mohammed.

"I told Abu Jihad in Syria to take him. I told him not to bring him to me as he would make noise" while Masharipov was on the run from police, he said.

- 'Know the true circumstances' -

Samia Maktouf, a lawyer representing a French victim and her Tunisian husband, said it was vital that all the circumstances of the attack be 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.

Ali Akyil, whose son, Belgian citizen Kerim Akyil, lost his life in the nightclub, told the court that after the attack "I lost my life. lost the taste of my life."

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. He then slipped away.

The Islamic State (IS) extremist group, which at the time controlled swathes of Turkey's neighbours Iraq and Syria, later claimed the attack. It remains the only time it has issued an unequivocal claim for an attack in Turkey.

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.

Of the 39 people 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.

With the trial taking place under high security, Turkish special forces soldiers were deployed on the balconies of a minaret of a nearby mosque to observe the area.

Masharipov, who used the IS codename Abu Mohammed Horasani, was just one of several nationals of the ex-Soviet state of Uzbekistan implicated in jihadist attacks this year, including deadly assaults in Stockholm and New York.

Badly damaged in the assault, the Reina nightclub, once the haunt of Istanbul football stars and soap opera icons, was demolished in May on the grounds it had violated local construction legislation.

Turkey was battered by repeated attacks by jihadist and Kurdish extremists in 2016. However, there has been no large-scale attack comparable to the Reina atrocity since.


Kurdish militia fire rockets at Turkish town

Saudi calls for cooperation between OPEC, non-OPEC countries

The changing faces of al-Qaeda in Syria

Yemen releases budget for first time in three years

US to overtake Saudi as world’s second crude oil producer

France presses Turkey to end offensive against Kurds

Moroccans wary depreciation of dirham could raise cost of living, despite benefits

Deserted streets, terrified civilians after Turkey attacks Afrin

Iraqi, Kurdish leaders hold talks on bitter regional dispute

Russia-led Syria peace congress to be held January 30

Turkey launches new strikes on Kurdish targets in Syria

Egypt's Sisi says will stand for re-election

Pence heads to Mideast despite Muslim, Christian anger

Assad regime says Syria a 'tourist' destination

Journalists arrested while reporting Sudan protests

Aid for millions of Palestinians hostage to politics

Lebanon thwarts holiday attacks using IS informant

Mortar fire wounds 14 in Syria mental hospital

Turkish military fires on Kurdish forces in Syria's Afrin

More than 32,000 Yemenis displaced in intensified fighting

UN warns of "lost generation" in South Sudan's grinding conflict

Saudi's refined oil exports offset crude curbs

Turkey's EU minister rejects any option other than full membership

Sudan clamps down on journalists covering bread protests

Tribal feuds spread fear in Iraq's Basra

Turkey says not reassured by US comments on border force

UN chief wants to revive Syria gas attack probe

US has no intention to build border force in Syria

Lebanese intelligence service may be spying using smartphones worldwide

Egypt's Sisi sacks intelligence chief

Trump dashes Netanyahu’s hope to move US embassy to Jerusalem

Cyprus denies bail for Israeli organ trafficker

Rising Yemen currency sparks hopes of relief

Turkish ministries to investigate underage pregnancy cover-up

Iraq PM launches online appeal for election allies

Iran central bank sees claim for billions from German stock market blocked

Iraq signs deal with BP to develop Kirkuk oil fields

Israeli occupation forces raid Jenin, kill Palestinian

HRW chief says 'Nobody should be forcibly returned to Libya'

IS poses threat to Iraq one month after 'liberation'

Seven years since ousting dictator, Tunisians still protest

Iran says Trump jeopardising Airbus deals

China says Iranian oil tanker wreck located

Sudan arrests communist leader after protests

Syrian opposition joins condemnation of US 'border force'