9 Charged For Turkey Suicide Bombs

Plainclothes Turkish policemen accompany two of 15 suspected accomplices of the Istanbul suicide bombers to the prosecutor's office for questioning in Istanbul, Turkey, Monday Nov. 24, 2003. The suspects could face charges for involvement in the attacks that killed 30 people in two attacks on the British Consulate and a London-based HSBC bank headquarters in Istanbul on Thursday. AP

A Turkish court on Tuesday charged nine suspected accomplices in last week's Istanbul suicide bombings, alleging they aided or were members of an illegal organization.

Three other suspects were released, defense lawyer lawyer Selahattin Karahan said.

No trial date was set. The charges are punishable by up to five years in prison.

After hours of questioning, the court after midnight charged one of the suspected accomplices with aiding and abetting an illegal organization and eight others with membership in an illegal organization, Karahan said.

Four other detainees had already been released Monday, apparently for lack of evidence.

The charges came just five days after the bombings of the British consulate and a London-based bank in Istanbul. Fifty-seven people died in those attacks and the earlier bombings of two synagogues in the city.

The suspects covered their heads with jackets and coats as they arrived at the court on Monday. A police line held back a crowd of shouting relatives, including several women wearing black chadors, the all-covering garment rare in downtown Istanbul.

On Wednesday, authorities arrested six people in connection with the synagogue bombings. A court charged five with "attempting to overthrow the constitutional structure," which carries a life sentence. The sixth was charged with "helping illegal organizations," punishable by five years in prison.

On Monday, Istanbaul Gov. Muammer Guler said authorities were making progress in the investigation and had used DNA samples to identify the man who rammed an explosive-packed pickup truck into the consulate.

"We've identified the culprits who carried out the attack on the British Consulate," Guler said. "We have all the details and we know their connections."

Guler would not name the man; but the Istanbul newspaper Milliyet defied government reporting restrictions and identified him as Feridun Ugurlu, a Turk believed to have fought with Islamic radicals in Afghanistan and Chechnya. Turkish media reports have said police have tentatively identified the other suicide bomber as Azad Ekinci.

Turkish media said both bombers in Thursday's attacks were militants previously reported to be accomplices of the suicide bombers in the Nov. 16 attacks on two Istanbul synagogues.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a televised national address on the eve of the religious holiday ending the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, appealed to Turks to resist terrorism.

"This is a war between justice and cruelty, good and bad, and true and false, it is our right to expect every sensible person to stand by justice, good, and truth in this war," Erdogan said.

Police are examining the hard drives of 10 computers taken after the synagogue bombings from an Internet cafe in the city of Bingol. The cafe belonged to the brother of one of the suspected bombers, a local official said by telephone.

On Sunday, Erdogan said it was too early to confirm al Qaeda involvement. Foreign and Turkish officials say the attacks bore the hallmarks of the network led by Osama bin Laden.

Turkish investigators spread out to Bingol, believed to be the hometown of all four suicide bombers. The city is a hotbed of the Hezbollah radical Islamic group, which is separate from the Lebanese group of the same name.

Experts speculate that Hezbollah may have been backed by Turkish authorities in the early 1980s to counter Kurdish separatists fighting a bloody insurgency against the military in the southeast. Turkey now sees the group as a threat to the secular state and is investigating any links to al Qaeda.

Under government instructions, sermons in mosques around the country were to carry an anti-terrorism message at the start of the three-day religious holiday ending Ramadan on Tuesday.
  • Brian Dakss

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