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Al-Qaeda 'aided Istanbul bombers'


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Al-Qaeda 'aided Istanbul bombers'

Two men on trial for bombings in Turkey that killed more than 60 people last year have told an Istanbul court that al-Qaeda helped the attackers.

One defendant, Harun Ilhan, described himself as an "al-Qaeda warrior" and said the holy war would continue.

Another suspect said Osama bin Laden's network smuggled $150,000 into Turkey to support the bombers.

A total of 69 men are being tried in connection with the November bombing of UK and Jewish targets in Istanbul.

Nine of the suspects appeared in court on Monday to testify for the first time.

The man suspected of heading the cell, Habib Akdas, was reported to have been killed in Iraq last week, during a US raid.


Mr Ilhan told the court that he was one of the leaders of the groups that carried out the attack, and said he was a "proud member" of al-Qaeda.

He also said that while Osama bin Laden was mortal, jihad - or holy war - was "eternal".

"Al-Qaeda exists in all of the Islamic world for victory until this fight is finished with success it will continue," he said.

He warned Turkey not to support US "occupations" in Afghanistan and Iraq, and called on "imperialist forces" to withdraw from all Muslim countries.

Another defendant, Adnan Ersoz - in a more sober testimony - denied any direct involvement in the attacks.

He said he was in Iran at the time and the news of the Istanbul suicide bombings caught him by surprise.

However he said that Mr Akdas later told him that his group had received $150,000 from al-Qaeda-linked groups in Syria and Iran.

He added that although the bombers had developed ties with Osama bin Laden's network, they could not be described as an al-Qaeda cell.

No death penalty

Some of the other defendants have acknowledged having received training in Afghanistan, but deny any part in the bombings.

Others say they were manipulated by the ringleaders.

The court hearings were disrupted in May by reforms of Turkey's court system.

They are due to continue until Friday.

Five of the defendants - accused of playing a direct role in the bombings - face life imprisonment.

Turkey has abolished the death penalty under reforms demanded by the European Union, which Ankara seeks to join.

The other defendants face shorter prison sentences.

The bombings targeted two synagogues in Istanbul, as well as the British consulate and a British-owned bank.


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