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Monday, 11 February, 2002, 16:39 GMT
Turkish justice moves slowly
Suspects accused of killing Leeds United fans, guarded by gendarmes
The suspects must return to court in March
By the BBC's Tabitha Morgan

The latest adjournment in the case against five men accused of killing two Leeds United football fans focuses attention on the slow pace of Turkish justice.

It is the third delay, bringing disappointment for the families of the two victims, Kevin Speight and Christopher Loftus.

But it is likely to come as no surprise to anyone acquainted with the Turkish legal system.

It is not unusual for defendants to spend years on remand waiting for their cases to work their way through the courts - only to find that when a verdict is finally delivered they are acquitted.

Turkish riot police
Turkish police are overstretched, adding to delays
Unlike the British and American legal systems - where evidence has to be amassed before a trial can begin - the Turkish public prosecutor is obliged to file a case as soon as he feels there are sufficient grounds for doing so.

Evidence is then brought before the court piece by piece as the trial proceeds.

In an overworked and under-resourced bureaucracy like Turkey's, this generally means intervals of no less than 30 days between individual court hearings.

In cases where a defendant is not being detained in police custody, the periods between court sessions can be as long as five months.

Slow inquiries

There are other key differences with other countries.

In France, for example, examining magistrates are able to call on the services of a dedicated police force to investigate alleged crimes.

But their Turkish counterparts have to enlist the services of the regular police - slowing things down still further.

I have six years credit from the state should I choose to commit a crime at any point in the future

Woman cleared after six years in custody
In practice it is relatively rare to find cases of compensation awarded to individuals who have been detained in jail only to be subsequently acquitted.

But in principle, if an innocent detainee later commits a crime, the judge is supposed to take into account time already spent in prison before delivering a sentence.

One woman acquitted after spending six years in jail for allegedly being a member of an illegal organisation said wryly: "It means I have six years credit from the state should I choose to commit a crime at any point in the future."


Under the Ottoman Empire, before the foundation of the Turkish Republic, a large part of Turkey's civil law - dealing with family inheritance property and other such matters - was based on the Koran and administered by religious courts.

In 1926 reforms were carried out to secularise the legal system.

Legal experts borrowed from a number of existing European codes, including some already in force in Switzerland and Italy, modifying them to fit Turkish customs and traditions.|

See also:

24 Dec 01 | Europe
Leeds deaths trial adjourned
23 May 00 | Europe
Turkish soccer death trial begins
06 Apr 00 | Europe
Fans' anguish at deaths
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