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Last Updated: Monday, 31 May, 2004, 11:59 GMT 12:59 UK
Law change scuppers Turkey trial
Suspect Seyit Ertul among others in court
The suspects' lawyers successfully argued the court had no validity
The Turkish trial of dozens of suspects charged over November's suicide attacks has been halted indefinitely.

Defence lawyers claimed Istanbul's State Security Court was not fit to hear the case as it was recently abolished in pro-EU government reforms.

Prosecutors later announced they agreed. The full trial cannot now start until parliament creates a new court.

More than 60 people died in the blasts, which targeted two synagogues, the HSBC bank and the British consulate.

Consul General Roger Short was among the dead.

The defence lawyers made their successful plea within hours of the case getting under way. The procedural hearings will continue for several days even though the trial itself will not go ahead.

Twelve suspects appeared at the initial court hearing on Monday, but a total of 69 people are due to be brought to court over the next five days.

Wreckage outside the British consulate in Istanbul
The British consulate was among the buildings targeted
The Aksam daily newspaper has quoted Turkish Justice Minister Cemil Cicek as saying a law establishing new criminal courts would be passed within a fortnight.

The State Security Court, which handles terrorism and other serious crimes, was abolished in constitutional changes urged by Brussels as part of Turkey's campaign for EU membership.

The first 12 suspects to appear on Monday were surrounded by photographers after arriving in court, as journalists got their first glimpse of the suspects.

The BBC's Jonny Dymond says most of the defendants stared straight ahead, but one pulled his jacket over his head so as to avoid identification.

The two synagogues were attacked with car bombs on 15 November. Five days later, the HSBC bank headquarters and the British consulate were targeted with lorry bombs.

Al-Qaeda theory

A local paramilitary group called Hezbollah is believed to have been responsible for planning and organising the bombings, but the Turkish police and government say they have evidence of the involvement of al-Qaeda at a high level.

In their indictment, prosecutors request life sentences for five suspects who they say played direct roles in the bombings.

Key suspect Baki Yigit arriving in court
The suspects now face an indefinite wait for their trial
The other 64, accused of being low-level operatives, sympathisers and assistants. could face much shorter sentences.

Several suspects alleged to be ringleaders, however, remain at large.

They include Habip Aktas, the alleged head of the Turkish al-Qaeda cell who is said to have given the order for the Istanbul bombings.

The indictment says 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.

The BBC's Jonny Dymond
"The court had been abolished a few weeks ago and no one had seen fit to create a replacement"


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