An Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militant who killed 39 people and wounded 79 others on New Year’s Eve used his right to remain silent in court on Dec. 11.
Uzbek-origin Abdulkadir Masharipov, 34, faces 40 aggravated life sentences, one for each of the victims and for the massacre itself and up to 2,397 years in jail for gunning down New Year’s Eve revelers at the Reina nightclub in the early hours of Jan. 1.
The several charges directed against Masharipov include “attempting to destroy constitutional order,” “being a member of an armed terrorist organization” and “murdering more than one person.”
The first hearing of the case, which also includes 56 other defendants, was held in a courtroom inside the Silivri prison complex.
The others on trial include Masharipov’s wife Zarina Nurullayeva, who is a suspected accomplice and faces similar penalties as her husband. All but six of the defendants are being held in custody.
Masharipov, who used the ISIL codename “Abu Mohammed Horasani,” was apprehended in a massive police operation in Istanbul’s Esenyurt district on Jan. 16. Analysts say his evidence in confessions has helped Turkish authorities break up the network of jihadist cells in the city.
The initial court hearing was closed to the press but sketches showed Masharipov seated between two gendarmerie officers.
Masharipov’s lawyer, Atanur Demir, requested for the hearing to be held in Istanbul’s Çağlayan courthouse rather than in Silivri. He also requested that the constraint between lawyer and client to be removed and for the lawyers and suspects to sit together in the courtroom in order to be able to have private conversations.
Demir also asked the court to remind Masharipov that he has the right to remain silent, while the hearing’s prosecutor asked for all requests that do not fit the law to be rejected.
The court board, in return, rejected moving the hearing to Çağlayan due to security reasons and the high number of defendants.
The court board also rejected the remaining requests and told the suspects they had the right to remain silent in Russian, Uzbek, English, French, Arabic, Uigur and Kazakh via translators.
Given the floor, Masharipov asked the court what his lawyer’s demands were and the reason behind their rejection.
After the court’s explanation, he took the floor once again and asked whether lifting the constraint between the lawyer and client and for lawyers and suspects to sit together would be accepted after the state of emergency is lifted.
The court head responded that the former request would be evaluated in an interim decision and that the latter was unrelated to the state of emergency.
Masharipov then declined to give his testimony.
“Because I do not understand Turkey’s laws enough, I will not give my defense before meeting my lawyer,” Masharipov said, prompting the court head to scold the militant.
“This is not a place to show off. If he is going to give his defense he should do so. If not he should sit down. Sit down!” said the court head.
In response, Demir objected to the court head’s attitude.
“The fact that you have shouted at the defendant has been added to the court records. We will make a legal application on this issue,” he said.
The court head, in response, repeated his previous statements about “showing off.”
“This place is not for showing off. Courts issue rulings on behalf of the Republic of Turkey and the people. This is a place to defend the rights of the victims,” he said, after which Demir accused the court head of himself showing off.
“You told us not to show off, but you are doing it yourself,” Masharipov’s lawyer said, prompting the court to shut down the microphone of Demir in order to hear the defense of another suspect, İlyas Mamasharipov.
According to the indictment, the order for the Afghanistan-trained Masharipov to carry out the attack was given by a senior Russian Syria-based ISIL militant 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.