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Turkish man jailed for life for murdering U.S. tourist

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A Turkish man was sentenced on Tuesday to life in prison for the 2013 murder of American tourist Sarai Sierra, whose disappearance in Istanbul had triggered a massive search.

Sierra, 33, from New York City, had been traveling alone on a photography trip when she went missing in January 2013. Her body was found 12 days later by the ruins of the old city wall in the poor Sarayburnu neighborhood

The Istanbul court sentenced Ziya Tasali, 48, to life in prison for murder, plus 5-1/2 years for sexual assault and 2-1/2 years for theft, to be served consecutively, said Ceren Sarman, a lawyer for the mother-of-two's family.

"The ruling is in line with our expectations," Sarman said. "The proceedings moved slowly, but we are still pleased with the final result."

Sarman said Tasali confessed to the murder but had denied the charges of rape and theft.

His lawyer, Merve Gurkan, had argued that Tasali had a substance-abuse problem and did not have full control of his faculties. Gurkan declined to comment after the verdict.

Tasali may be eligible for early release because the court reduced the sentence from "aggravated life" to "life" after the defendant had expressed regret over the crime, Sarman said.

Turkish media reports citing the indictment said Tasali told police he had struck Sierra on the head after she refused to let him kiss her.

(Reporting by Ayla Jean Yackley; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Alison Williams)

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