Due to space limitations, just 13 defendants were brought on Wednesday, the first day, before the newly-constituted Major Crimes Court in Istanbul, a class of court officially established to replace the state security court system.

 

The Turkish parliament in May this year voted to abolish the state security court system as part of the country's bid to join the European Union.

 

The 69 defendants are accused of being involved with attacks on 15 and 20 November last year that saw bombers drive pick-up trucks loaded with explosives into two synagogues, the British consulate and the Istanbul headquarters of the London-based HSBC bank.

 

Indictment

 

The bombings occurred in
November last year 

The four  bombers and 58 others were killed in the attacks, including British Consul General Roger Short. More than 600 people were injured.

 

According to the prosecutor's indictment, Usama bin Ladin had suggested attacking Turkish targets and gave $150,000 to Turkish Islamic dissidents to carry out the bombings.

 

Prosectors have asked for life sentences to be given to five so-called "ringleaders" accusing them of "attempting to overthrow the constitutional state by force", a charge equivalent to high treason.

 

However, the suspected ringleader of the al-Qaida group in Turkey, who is believed to have ordered the attacks, is still at large.

 

Prison terms

 

The accused are said to have been
acting under bin Ladin's instructions

The others on trial face sentences ranging from around four to 22 years in jail.

 

Fifty of the 69 on trial are being held in custody for the duration of the trial with the 19 others having been released by prosecutors shortly after being charged.

 

According to the indictment, Habib Akdas, Baki Yigit and Adnan Ersoz had met on several occasions with top leaders of al-Qaida and that in 2001 Akdas and Yigit met bin Ladin.

 

According to testimony provided to prosecutors by Yigit, the two Turkish nationals suggested to bin Ladin that they carry out kidnappings of US businessmen but this was rejected.

 

Instead bin Ladin suggested that the Turkish group attack US interests in Turkey, in particular the Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey which has been used by the US military for a number of years.

 

Another suggestion was to attack Israeli ships in the Mediterranean port of Mersin.

 

These targets were reportedly abandoned due to heavy security.