A lawyer defending al-Qaida-linked suspects standing trial for the 2003 suicide bombings in Istanbul told a court Tuesday that jihad, or holy war, was an obligation for Muslims and his clients should not be prosecuted.
At the end of the 12-hour-long hearing, the presiding judge adjourned the trial to Jan. 24.
Twenty-nine of the suspects were brought to the courthouse for the hearing, handcuffed and escorted by paramilitary police. They sat in the middle of the courtroom, surrounded by police.
"I'm not a member of al-Qaida, but I've thought about killing Israeli and American pilots," defendant Sait Ertul said.
Defense counsel Cihat Madran said they were motivated to act by outrage over attacks against Muslims in Afghanistan, Chechnya and elsewhere.
Thirty-seven defendants face between seven and 22 years in prison for charges ranging from aiding and abetting terrorism to membership in a terrorist group. Many have been held in prison for more than two years.
The November 2003 blasts targeted two synagogues, the British Consulate and the local headquarters of the London-based HSBC bank, killing 58 people.