Moving swiftly to hunt down the perpetrators of deadly bombings in Istanbul, a Turkish court yesterday charged nine people as accomplices to the suicide bombers who set off explosions at the British consulate and a British bank.
Eight were charged with being members of an illegal organization, while one was accused of aiding and abetting an illegal organization. The charges came after several hours of questioning.
The suspects covered their heads with jackets and coats as they arrived at the court on Monday. A police line held back a crowd of shouting relatives, including several women wearing black chadors, the all-covering garment rarely worn in downtown Istanbul.
The charges came just five days after the bombings of the British consulate and the headquarters of the London-based HSBC bank in Istanbul.
Fifty-seven people, including the bombers, died in those attacks and the bombings of two synagogues in the city on Nov. 15.
The charges are punishable by up to five years in prison, and no trial date was set. Three other suspects were released, defense lawyer Selahattin Karahan said.
Authorities earlier charged five people with "attempting to overthrow the constitutional structure" for their alleged roles in the synagogue bombings. A sixth person was charged with "helping illegal organizations."
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a nationally televised address on the eve of the religious holiday ending the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, appealed to Turks to resist terrorism.
"This is a war between justice and cruelty, good and bad, and true and false, it is our right to expect every sensible person to stand by justice, good and truth in this war," Erdogan said.
Under government instructions, sermons in mosques around the country yesterday morning carried an anti-terrorism message at the start of the three-day religious holiday ending Ramadan.
Turkish media said both bombers in the consulate and bank attacks were militants earlier reported to be accomplices of the suicide bombers in the Nov. 15 attacks on the Istanbul synagogues.
On Monday, Istanbul Governor Muammer Guler said authorities were making progress in the investigation and had used DNA samples to identify the man who rammed an explosive-packed pickup truck into the consulate.
"We've identified the culprits who carried out the attack on the British consulate," Guler said.
"We have all the details and we know their connections," he said.
Guler would not name the man, but the Istanbul newspaper Milliyet defied government reporting restrictions and identified him as Feridun Ugurlu, a Turk believed to have fought with Islamic radicals in Afghanistan and Chechnya. Turkish media reports have said police have tentatively identified the other suicide bomber as Azad Ekinci.
In Ankara, police detained 10 suspected members of a little-known militant group, the daily Hurriyet reported yesterday. The suspects were believed to have links to Ekinci, and one of the suspects detained owned a pickup truck. Police said the 10 underwent military training in Afghanistan and Iran and were planning attacks, the newspaper said. Police refused to confirm the report.
Police have examined the hard drives of 10 computers seized after the synagogue bombings from an Internet cafe in the city of Bingol. The cafe belonged to the brother of one of the suspected bombers, a local official said.