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Pleasing EU Means Delaying Terror Trial in Turkey

A raft of reforms aimed at increasing Turkey's chances to get into the European Union caused the unexpected delay of an al-Qaeda terror trail -- the court in which it was held was abolished.

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The synagogue explosions shook Istanbul and the rest of Turkey.

Over the next week, 69 people suspected of involvement in two bomb attacks in Istanbul in Nov. 2003 that killed 63 people, were to go before a judge in the State Security Court. But just hours before the trial was to begin, defense lawyers were able to successfully argue that EU guidelines requesting the abolishment of the State Security Court meant that the court could not hear the case.

Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer signed a raft of legislation changing the constitution this month. The changes were made last year as part of Turkey's efforts to show the European Union that they are a serious candidate for membership.

The State Security Court, normally set aside for corruption and terrorist trials, was deemed inappropriate for possible future EU membership.

As a result, officials in the justice ministry have set about drafting a bill that would create a new, replacement court. Justice Minister Cemil Cicek said such a law would be in place in two weeks, according to a Turkish newspaper.

Sentences of five years to life in prison

Until then, the trial of the 69 has been indefinitely delayed.

The first 12, among them the five suspected of planning the bomb attacks, were to appear before the judge. Prosecutors say they belong to a terror group affiliated with al Qaeda.

On Nov. 15, they allegedly positioned two explosives-packed trucks in front of two Istanbul synagogues killing at least 20 people and injuring hundreds. Five days later, two other trucks hit British-owned HSBC bank and the British Consulate, killing among others the Consul General Robert Short.

The five face could face life in prison if convicted. The remaining suspects have been charged with crimes including from membership in a terrorist organization and could face at least 4.5 to 22.5 years behind bars.

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