Ziya Tasalı, who was convicted of the murder of Sarai Sierra, an American tourist killed in Istanbul in 2013, is being retried after a higher court ordered a new sentence on the sexual assault and theft charges he was convicted of.
Sierra's murder had raised public outcry in Turkey concerning violence against women and overshadowed Turkey's image as a safe country for tourists. Sierra, a native of New York, was on a solo photography vacation when her body was found near the ancient city walls in the city's Sarayburnu district. Tasalı, a homeless man, was arrested for the murder.
In 2014, an Istanbul court sentenced him to life for murder and handed down a five-year prison term for sexual assault and another two years for robbing the victim. The Court of Cassation upheld the life sentence, but overturned the other prison terms, citing that the court should have handed down a heavier sentence due to the nature of the crime. The higher court, however, ruled that the lower court's ruling on sexual assault faulty and tat Tasalı should have been sentenced for "attempted sexual assault."
During Friday's hearing, attended by the defendant and Sierra's family, the prosecutor said he agreed with the Supreme Court's ruling that the sexual assault was "not concluded." The prosecutor said the convict indeed killed Sierra when he failed to rape her. Tasalı also denied the charges though he admitted, once again, to murdering Sierra. The hearing was adjourned for March 21 after Tasalı's testimony.