HATAY/ISTANBUL - Doğan News Agency
Ziya T. was detained in the southern province of Hatay. DHA photo
Ziya T., the top suspect in the murder of U.S. citizen Sarai Sierra, was transferred to Istanbul by plane from the southern province of Hatay, where he was captured March 17, one-and-a-half months after the 31-year-old woman’s killing.
“I regret what I did. That’s it. I will tell [what happened] later,” the man, also known as “Laz Ziya,” told reporters as he was being brought for a medical check-up in Istanbul.
The suspect was captured crossing into Turkey from Syria, Interior Minister Muammer Güler said, adding that Turkish police knew that the suspect was “probably” in Syria.
Istanbul police have begun questioning the suspect, who is facing possible formal arrest and charges.
“[The arrest is the result] of a long-running investigation of our police forces in Istanbul and in Hatay. You are aware that since [Laz Ziya’s whereabouts were elucidated] we had a team in Hatay. We work with evidence, not with rumors,” Istanbul police chief Hüseyin Çapkın said soon after the suspect was transferred to Istanbul. “It was an international case. I thank my colleagues for conducting the operation successfully without harming our reputation.”
Sierra who left the United States for the first time in her life on Jan. 7 to take pictures in Istanbul, which is visited by millions of tourists every year, went missing in the city on Jan. 21 and her dead body was found on Feb. 2.
Ziya T. or “Laz Ziya,” left Istanbul shortly after Sierra’s body was found by police in Istanbul’s historic city walls located in Sarayburnu, shore to Bosporus.
Ziya T. (46), who used to earn his living collecting and selling used paper, according to his family’s statements that had claimed Ziya T, was an “unbalanced man.”
According to police reports, after leaving Istanbul, Ziya T. went to his sister’s house in the northwestern province of Karabük where he spent three days. He told his family he was heading for the southern province of Hatay.
Police have been searching for suspects since then, but the top suspect, Ziya T., was said to have escaped to Syria.
Ziya T. was detained within Turkish borders in Hatay’s Reyhanlı district; official sources told the Hürriyet Daily News.
The suspect was detained in Hatay province, near Turkey’s border with Syria, Reyhanlı, Hatay Governor Mehmet Celalettin Lekesiz said.
Previously, Turkish security forces had contacted the armed opposition in Syria, which controls “liberated zones,” to capture suspects in the deadly bombing of the Turkish Syrian border gate of Cilvegözü.
The al-Nusra Front, al-Faruk Brigade and Fatih Sultan Mehmet Brigade, which are controlling the mountainous area in Latakia, a western province of Syria, also provided information on the issue, according to a report by Turkish daily Yeni Şafak.
Five suspects were arrested out of eight detainees who were brought from Syrian land on March 11 after a month-long investigation.
The al-Nusra Front has been blacklisted by Washington as a terrorist organization for its deadly suicide attacks.