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Last Updated: Monday, 20 March 2006, 16:46 GMT
Turkey bomb 'linchpin' on trial
Syrian suspect Loai al-Saqa (file pic)
Loai al-Saqa: Suspected of al-Qaeda links
A key Syrian suspect accused of helping mastermind a series of deadly al-Qaeda attacks has gone on trial in Turkey.

Loai al-Saqa joins more than 70 suspects on trial over the suicide blasts, which killed 58 people in Istanbul in November 2003.

He denies masterminding or channelling funds for the attacks. He was thrown out of court after refusing to stand.

His lawyer was also banned from representing him after being charged with aiding and abetting al-Qaeda.

The blasts targeted the British consulate, the HSBC bank headquarters and two synagogues.

A rescue worker removes flowers from the wreck of the British Consulate
Al-Qaeda is suspected of having aided the Istanbul bombers

Prosecutors claim Mr Saqa channelled funds from al-Qaeda to finance the attacks.

He was captured last August as he was allegedly plotting a further attack on an Israeli cruise liner.

The BBC's Sarah Rainsford says Mr Saqa, appearing in court for the first time since his capture, slouched on his bench looking relaxed, sometimes smirking.

He refused to confirm his identity to the judge, and refused to stand up.

"I carried out jihad [holy war]. I killed Americans. Am I going to stand up for people like you," he shouted as he was led away, news agencies reported.

Huge trial

The case against Mr Saqa and another Syrian national was formally merged with the trial of 71 Turkish suspects charged over the attacks.

The courtroom was overflowing with relatives and lawyers of the accused men, our correspondent says.

Some stood to present their own defence. One said he recognised no judge but Allah; another professed his innocence and demanded bail.

The trial has already been running for almost two years, and lawyers say the decision to merge it with the case against Mr Saqa means it will now continue for several more months at least.

In pictures: Turkey blasts
24 Jun 04 |  In Pictures
Culture clash in bomb-hit city
24 Nov 03 |  Europe
Country profile: Turkey
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