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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 January, 2005, 07:30 GMT
Leeds fans' murder suspect freed
Christopher Loftus
Christopher Loftus died in Istanbul in April 2000
A Turkish court has ordered the release of the main suspect in the fatal stabbings of two Leeds United fans in Istanbul five years ago.

The court agreed to release Ali Umit Demir pending his retrial because of recent changes in Turkish law passed as part of Turkey's bid to join the EU.

Demir was due to have left the prison on Monday, his lawyer Ozkan Ozmen said.

His conviction for stabbing Christopher Loftus and Kevin Speight in April 2000 was overturned on appeal in 2003.

Blood on knife

In 2002, Demir was sentenced to 15 years in prison for the stabbings which happened during street fighting in Istanbul before Leeds played Galatasaray in a Uefa Cup semi-final.

An appeals court in June 2003 overturned the double-murder conviction, saying Demir's knife had the blood of Mr Speight, a 40-year-old from Farsley in Leeds, but not necessarily that of Mr Loftus, 35, from Burmantofts in Leeds.

Authorities have been waiting for a new forensic report on a knife covered with the victims' blood to determine if the weapon delivered the fatal blows.

Mr Ozmen said that the court agreed to release Demir because he had spent nearly five years in jail and recent changes to Turkish law stipulated that a defendant could only spend three years in custody before a decision was reached.

He said he had filed a petition demanding Demir's release on Friday.

"It's been nearly five years and so this is the decision that needed to be made," he said.

The next session in the retrial is scheduled for 9 February.

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