Turkey IS trial ends in life sentences for 3 foreigners

AP News
Posted: Jun 15, 2016 11:30 AM

ISTANBUL (AP) — A Turkish court handed down multiple life sentences to three foreign Islamic State militants on Wednesday after finding them guilty of murder, according to a lawyer.

The men were arrested in 2014 after killing a soldier, a policeman and a truck driver in an armed attack in Nigde, central Turkey.

The incident is viewed as the first act of violence carried out by members of the Islamic State group inside Turkey and raised awareness of the threat the organization poses to the country.

Since then, authorities have blamed IS for major bombings in the border town of Suruc and the capital Ankara, as well as attacks on tourists in Istanbul.

The men were identified as Cendrim Ramadani, a Swiss citizen; Benyamin Xu, a German; and Muhammed Zakiri, a Macedonian.

Ali Cil, the lawyer of the civilian victim, said they were also found guilty of wanting to overthrow the government by force.

Ramadani received five aggravated life sentences, Xu four, and Zakiri one. An aggravated life sentence is the worst possible penalty in the Turkish criminal code. Prisoners serving such sentences are kept in solitary cells and have only one hour exercise per day. They are not eligible for pardons or conditional release.

The three men were also sentenced to more than 124 additional years each behind bars and fined $77,000 each.

"I hope they rot in jail," said the killed soldier's mother, Hatice Kozanoglu.

Media reports said the court also found a fourth suspect, Fuad Movsumov, guilty of membership in a terrorist organization, a lesser charge. Movsumov, identified by the private Dogan news agency as a Macedonian national, was sentenced to 13 years and 9 months in jail.

Turkey shares long borders with Syria and Iraq, two war-torn nations where IS controls large pockets of territory.

The porous nature of those borders has made Turkey a natural stepping stone for jihadi fighters.

Turkey, a member of the U.S.-led coalition against IS, has stepped up controls at airports and land borders and deported thousands of foreign fighters. But it is struggling to tackle the threat of IS militants who have cells inside Turkey and sometimes fire into the country from across the Syrian border.

Since last summer, Turkish forces have been largely tied up in vast security operations against Kurdish rebels who want greater autonomy in the southeast.