Turkey - pro-Chechen gunmen appear in court
- 20:05 [Monday 30th April, 2001]
Pro-Chechen gunmen appear in court
ISTANBUL, Turkey - Pro-Chechen gunmen who held 120 people hostage
last week in a luxury Istanbul hotel appeared in court Monday while
court officials decided whether to hold them in custody before their
Thirteen gunmen kept hotel guests and staff captive for 12 hours at
Istanbul's Swissotel last week before surrendering to police and
releasing all hostages unharmed. The gunmen have been detained by
police since their arrest April 23, but have not been charged.
The 13 suspects and four others accused of providing assistance
appeared Monday before a prosecutor, who was to question them and
decide whether they should remain in custody.
They arrived to the courtroom in a police van, handcuffed two-by-two.
About a dozen relatives gathered outside the courthouse. Journalists
and the public were not allowed in the courtroom.
"I don't know how my son became involved with these people. My family
has no Chechen connections," said Rustem Seferoglu whose 24-year-old
son Serdar is among the suspects.
"We're waiting for the decision. Let him serve his punishment and be
done with it," he said.
During the hotel siege, the gunmen said they were protesting Russia's
"bloody attacks" in the Caucasus, where Chechnya is located. They said
they had stormed the hotel to draw attention to the Chechen cause.
Turks strongly sympathize with their fellow Muslims in Chechnya. About
25,000 Chechens live in Istanbul and western Turkey, while some 5
million Turks trace their roots to the Caucasus.
There have been several other hostage-takings in Turkey to bring
attention to the violence in Chechnya.
The ringleader of last week's attack, Muhammed Tokcan, was earlier
sentenced for taking passengers hostage on a Black Sea ferry in 1996,
but he was released from prison in December. /The Associated Press/