Archive for Sunday, November 30, 2003

Turkey arrests suspect in synagogue bombing

Police say man was trying to flee to Iran

November 30, 2003

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— A central figure in the suicide bombing of an Istanbul synagogue was captured while trying to slip into Iran, police said Saturday. He was charged with trying to overthrow Turkey's "constitutional order" -- an offense equivalent to treason.

The suspect, whose name was not released, is believed to have given the order to carry out the Nov. 15 truck bombing of the Beth Israel synagogue -- one of four suicide attacks that killed 61 people in Turkey in November, said Istanbul Deputy Police Chief Halil Yilmaz.

Authorities arrested the man Tuesday at the Gurbulak crossing in eastern Agri province, which borders Iran.

A court charged him Saturday with attempting to overthrow Turkey's constitutional order by force, an offense that amounts to treason and is punishable by life in prison. Authorities have charged another 20 people in connection to the bombings, but for lesser roles.

"It is understood that the arrested person carried out intelligence gathering on Beth Israel synagogue before the attack, went to the location with other accomplices on the day of the attack and ordered the start of the attack," Yilmaz said.

He was the first major figure charged in connection with the bombings at two synagogues, the British Consulate and London-based HSBC Bank in Istanbul. Authorities didn't specify his alleged role in the plot or how many others they believe are involved.

The synagogue bombings killed 29 people and the consulate and HSBC attacks killed 32. The death toll includes all four suicide bombers, who authorities said were Turks.

Police arrested the suspect in the Beth Israel attack after receiving a tip that he planned to flee the country with false documents, Yilmaz said.

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