Sun, Feb 18, 2007 - Page 4 News List

Istanbul '03 bombers sentenced

TERRORISM Seven defendants were sentenced to life for their involvement in bombings that killed more than 60, but the acquittals of others angered some Turks


A court on Friday sentenced seven Muslim men to life in prison and several dozen other people to lesser terms for their involvement in the deadly bombings of Jewish and British sites in Istanbul in 2003.

The bombings killed more than 60 people and wounded hundreds more. Suicide bombers drove four explosive-laden trucks into two synagogues, the British Consulate and the HSBC headquarters here in two coordinated attacks five days apart. HSBC is a London-based banking and financial services company.

After a judge read their sentences, some of those convicted shouted, "Long live hell for nonbelievers!" and another yelled, "God is great!"

Life terms

Life sentences were given to those who were determined to have been masterminds of the plot. Six of the seven denied any links with al-Qaeda and sought acquittal. The judge sentenced 41 other defendants to prison terms ranging from three to 18 years on a variety of charges, while 26 defendants were acquitted.

One of those who drew a life term was Louai al-Sakka, a Syrian whom security officials have described as a senior member of the al-Qaeda network in Iraq. He was found guilty of planning the attacks and providing financing.

Sakka was arrested in 2005 in Turkey while, according to the authorities, he was preparing a suicide attack on an Israeli cruise ship that was to carry tourists to Antalya, a Turkish Mediterranean port.

At the time, the police said plans for the attack and high-powered explosives had been found at his residence.

Earlier this week, local news organizations said Turkish intelligence officials had told them that al-Qaeda had planned to kidnap Sakka on the way to the courthouse, a warning that prompted heavy security for the last two days of the trial.

Friday's session was dominated by another defendant, Harun Ilhan, who proudly declared himself a member of al-Qaeda and declared that he had been the ringleader of the four Istanbul bombings.

He read from a 700-page defense that he carried in a plastic grocery bag, spending more than four hours reading 83 pages about his hatred of the Turkish state and social deterioration in non-Muslim societies before the judge interrupted, asking him to summarize the rest.

Ilhan refused, saying, "You have this one-time chance to see why I've done this, became a member of al-Qaeda, how al-Qaeda works and has been supported worldwide, but you're just shutting me up."

After a brief exchange, the judge found Ilhan in contempt of court and ordered him out of the courtroom, but he refused to move and was carried out by five army guards.

Erkan Gabi Talu, 39, who lost his eight-year-old daughter, Annette Rubinstein Talu, and his mother, Anna Kant Talu, in one of the attacks, watched as Ilhan was removed. He said he was disappointed to have been denied access to the courtroom at the time of the sentencing.


"I've been waiting for all these years to see their faces at time of the verdict, but I'm denied this moment of limited joy," Talu said. "In my next visit to her grave, I wished to tell my daughter that she could rest in peace, but with all these acquittals and mild jail terms, I will not be able to do that."

The 2003 attacks were shocking for Turkey's predominantly Muslim population because of the high death toll, but also because Turks thought the country would be spared attacks by radical Islamic militants.

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