ISTANBUL, Turkey – Two women who were charged with passing along bomb-making materials in the November homicide attacks in Istanbul told a court Wednesday they were not involved. Their husbands are key suspects in the terror attacks, which killed at least 61 people.
The court turned down their attorney's request for immediate release but did free a third defendant.
Cemile Akdas is the wife of Habib Akdas, the alleged leader of the Turkish Al Qaeda (search) cell blamed for the attacks. The other woman, Mediha Yildirim, married Gurcan Bac in a religious ceremony that is not recognized in secular Turkey.
Their attorneys told the court that they traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan with their husbands years ago, but the women said they were not members of any Al Qaeda linked organization. Bac is a suspected top member of the cell.
The women are charged with membership in an illegal organization and aiding and abetting terrorists. Habib Akdas and Bac are believed to have fled abroad and no charges have been filed against them.
Prosecutors claim that the women helped to pass on bomb-making material used in the attacks and knew in advance that Akdas and Bac planned to flee.
Both women denied they knew what was in the packages which they were asked to give to other suspects in the case.
They said their husbands told them they were going abroad for work. They denied that their spouses said they were leaving to participate in a "jihad," or holy war.
Attorney Abdurrahman Sarioglu asked the court to release both women, saying they were innocent and had children.
"These women are being portrayed as members (of Al Qaeda) because they went to Afghanistan and Pakistan with their husbands. These women are not involved in these events," he said. "Women do not participate in jihad and I've never heard of a woman in Al Qaeda."
The women are among 69 defendants scheduled to appear this week before the court.
The court released suspect Ahmet Aslanoglu, who has denied any involvement in the bombings.
Trial began on Monday, but the court said it did not have the authority to hear the case and would only deal with procedural issues and other urgent matters, such as attorney requests to release clients.
That ruling came after parliament recently abolished state security courts like the one hearing this trial. The order does not come into force for about another month and new tribunals still have to be set up.
The November bombings targeted two synagogues, the British Consulate and the local headquarters of the London-based HSBC (search) bank.
Prosecutors are demanding life sentences for five suspects who they said played direct roles in the bombings.