Ziya Tasalı, who is accused of murdering American tourist Sarai Sierra, was referred to the İstanbul Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK) for mental health testing by an İstanbul court on Tuesday, the first day of his trial.
According to an initial autopsy report from the ATK, Sierra was not sexually assaulted, confirming testimony given by Tasalı during Tuesday's hearing.
Meanwhile, a request by the Family and Social Policy Ministry to be co-plaintiff in the case was accepted by the court.
The İstanbul 5th High Criminal Court on Monday accepted the indictment concerning Sierra, a 33-year-old mother of two who was found dead near İstanbul's ancient city walls on Feb. 2, 12 days after her family had reported her missing. She was vacationing alone in the city. The indictment seeks aggravated life imprisonment for Tasalı, known as Laz Ziya, on the charges of premeditated murder. The date of the first hearing has been set for Sept. 3.
Police captured Tasalı, a homeless scrap-paper collector, on March 17 in the province of Hatay near Turkey's border with Syria one-and-a-half months after Sierra's murder.
Tasalı later confessed to killing the tourist, according to İstanbul police. He told the police that after drinking heavily and ingesting drugs on Jan. 21, he saw a woman walking along the ancient city walls in Cankurtaran and tried to kiss her. When she hit him with her mobile phone, the suspect, incensed, found a rock on the ground and began to hit her. According to Tasalı, Sierra fought “for dear life” but he hit her twice on the head. “When I came back in the morning, she was dead and I covered her,” he also said.
Tasalı further recounted that Sierra had come to the area where he had been sniffing paint thinner. “It was around 1:00 a.m. when she came there. I even didn't think that she was an American or a tourist. I thought she was a Turkish woman. It was only after I saw newspapers reporting the disappearance of an American woman that I understood the missing woman was the one who I killed."
Sierra was murdered while vacationing alone in İstanbul, where her family said she visited to do some photography. They last spoke to Sierra on the morning of Jan. 21, the day before she was scheduled to begin her journey home. Sierra never checked into her flight out of İstanbul. Nearly two weeks after Sierra's disappearance, police found her body hidden behind the ancient city walls in the neighborhood of Cankurtaran. According to the police, she was killed by blunt force trauma to the head and, despite the conflicting media reports, was not raped.
A retrial of the Sledghammer case began on Nov. 3, 2014, after the Constitutional Court ruled in June 2014 unanimously that the convicted suspects’ rights were violated concerning “digital data and the defendants’ testimonies.”
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