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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 February, 2004, 16:07 GMT
Istanbul bombing suspects charged
Injured woman
More than 600 people were injured in the blasts
Turkish prosecutors have issued charges against 69 people suspected of involvement in four deadly suicide bombings in Istanbul last November.

The semi-official Anatolia agency said life sentences were demanded for five suspects described as "leaders of the al-Qaeda cell in Turkey".

Prosecutors asked for sentences of up to 22 years for the other defendants.

More than 60 people were killed in the suicide attacks on two synagogues, the British consulate and the HSBC bank.

Hundreds of others were injured as trucks laden with explosives were rammed into the buildings.

Al-Qaeda link

Istanbul prosecutors laid out the results of their three-month investigation in a 127-page indictment, according to Anatolia agency.

Five defendants were charged with "attempting to change the constitutional order by force", punishable by life imprisonment.

The others were charged with being members of an illegal organisation, or aiding and abetting one.

Consulate wreckage
Part of the British consulate was destroyed by the bombs
No date has yet been set for the trial - but it is expected to start soon.

The indictment also named nine key suspects who were still at large, probably abroad.

They include the alleged head of the Turkish al-Qaeda cell, Habib Aktas, who is accused of masterminding the attacks.

Mr Aktas received permission for the bombings at a meeting with a senior al-Qaeda figure, private news channel NTV quoted the indictment as saying.

It added that two other suspects, currently in police custody, had met al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden himself.

It also said the group had initially planned to attack an American airbase in south-eastern Turkey and an Israeli passenger ship on the country's Mediterranean coast.

But plans were dropped, apparently because of tight security.

Simultaneous attacks

On 15 November, Beth Israel synagogue in the Sisli district of the city and Neve Shalom synagogue in Beyoglu district were targeted by suicide bombers.

Less than a week later, on 20 November, the headquarters of the London-based HSBC bank, on top of a shopping area, was hit during a busy time of day.

The British consulate bomb exploded two minutes later. The main building had been undergoing refurbishment and many staff were working in outbuildings in the complex at the time.

The top UK diplomat in the city, Consul-General Roger Short, was among those killed in the consulate attack.


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