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Syrian man gets two life sentences for murder of activist and daughter in Turkey

The murderer, a distant relative of the victims, confessed to the crime last year, but his motive remains unknown
Orouba Barakat and daughter Halla Barakat were found murdered in 2017 (screengrab from twitter)

A Turkish court on Tuesday sentenced a Syrian man to two life sentences for the murder of a Syrian opposition activist and her daughter in Istanbul last year, the private Dogan news agency reported.

The bodies of Orouba Barakat and her daughter Halla Barakat, a Syrian-American journalist, were found in September in their apartment on Istanbul's Asian side. They were respectively 60 and 22 years old.

The elder Barakat, a prominent political opponent of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, had been investigating reports of torture in prisons run by the Syrian government, Turkish media said at the time.

Her daughter, who was born in the United States, was an editor at Orient Net, a pro-Syrian opposition web site, and had also worked as a freelancer for US TV network ABC.

Days after the murder, Turkish police arrested a distant relative of the women, Ahmed Barakat, in the city of Bursa, 90 km south of Istanbul. The motive for the killing remains unknown, media have reported.

Police identified Ahmed Barakat through CCTV footage and arrested him after a three-day operation, the Hurriyet newspaper said.

Orient Net described Halla Barakat as a "tireless" editor and investigative journalist, and her mother as a vocal opponent of Assad.

The US State Department said last year it was "deeply saddened" by their deaths and called Orouba's work "courageous".

Opposition activists had originally suspected that the Syrian government was behind the murders.

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"The hand of terrorism and tyranny is the prime suspect in this heinous crime. The coalition is absolutely confident that investigations being conducted by the Turkish authorities will reveal the details of the crime," the Syrian National Coalition opposition group said in a statement last year.

The coalition also hailed the two victims after their murder, saying that their "contributions will have a lasting impact long after her departure".

Turkish Ihlas News Agency reported in October that Ahmed Barakat had confessed to the crime.

"I killed Orouba and Halla Barakat. I accept my charges. Both of them are my relatives," he said.