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Turkish Court  Charges Synagogue Bombing Suspect - 2003-11-30

A suspect in the suicide bomb attack against a synagogue in Turkey's commercial capital, Istanbul, has been charged with seeking to overthrow Turkey's constitutional order through violent means. Under Turkish law the offense amounts to treason and is therefore punishable by life imprisonment.

The announcement was made by prosecutors at special security court in Istanbul that handles cases linked to terrorist offenses. Turkish police announced earlier Saturday that they had arrested a man suspected of ordering one of four suicide bomb attacks that shook Istanbul in the past weeks. The treason charges were brought against the same suspect who police declined to identify by name. He was detained as he was trying to cross into neighboring Iran. He was taken to Istanbul's Bayrampasa prison. No trial date has been set.

Istanbul's deputy police chief, Halil Yilmaz, said the man, arrested three days ago, had helped plan the suicide bomb attack against the Beth Israel synagogue which took place Nov. 15. Mr. Yilmaz said the man was brought to the scene of the blast early Saturday and ordered to describe in full detail how the attack was carried out. Turkey's private NTV television showed the man, bearded, handcuffed, and appearing to be in his 20s. He was wearing a bullet-proof vest and was surrounded by police.

The arrest came as police continue investigating the four suicide bomb attacks. The first set were mounted simultaneously against two synagogues on November 15. The second set of bombings took place just five days later against the British consulate and a London-based based bank. At least 61 people were killed and over 700 others injured when pick-up trucks loaded with explosives slammed into the targets almost simultaneously. Al-Qaida has claimed responsibility for all four attacks.

Turkish Interior Minister Abdul Kadir Aksu said that the investigation had not yet established any foreign connection to the bombings.

The suicide bombers themselves were all ethnic Kurds from Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeast provinces. All were believed to have links with Hezbollah, an militant Islamic group that has no connection with its Lebanese namesake, but that Turkish authorities say has been covertly supported by Iran.

Police say 20 people have been charged in the bombings so far. U.S. and Israeli security officials are helping with the investigation.