ISTANBUL, Turkey – A Turkish prosecutor demanded life in prison on Friday for an alleged Al Qaeda operative accused of serving as a point man between the terrorist group and Turkish suicide bombers, court officials said.
Loa'i Mohammad Haj Bakr al-Saqa, a Syrian national, is accused of being a senior Al Qaeda member and serving as the link between the terror network and homegrown militants who killed 58 people in a series of suicide bombings in Istanbul in 2003.
In the indictment, al-Saqa was charged with "attempting to overthrow the constitutional (secular) regime," the Anatolia news agency reported.
Al-Saqa, 32, has already been sentenced in absentia by Jordan. He was captured in Turkey in August after an alleged failed plot to attack Israeli cruise ships in the Mediterranean.
The prosecutor, who cannot be identified under Turkish law, also demanded that his Syrian accomplice, Hamed Obysi, be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for membership in a terrorist group.
The prosecutor asked a Turkish court to try the two along with more than 70 other Al Qaeda suspects who are already on trial for carrying out the suicide bombings in 2003 in Istanbul.
The court will decide within the next two weeks whether to accept the prosecutor's petition to try al-Saqa and Obysi along with the other suspects. The next hearing of the main Al Qaeda trial is scheduled for March 20.
The 2003 bombings in Istanbul blew up a British bank, the British Consulate and two synagogues.
Al-Saqa and Obysi were captured after an accidental explosion forced them to flee a safe house in the Mediterranean resort of Antalya, Turkey. Police said they found bomb-making materials — meant for a plot to attack an Israeli cruise ship — as well as fake IDs and passports from several countries.
Until recent years, al-Saqa was not well-known among international intelligence despite his conviction in absentia in 2002 — along with the Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — for a failed terror plot to attack Americans and Israelis in Jordan with poison gas during millennium celebrations. He and al-Zarqawi were each sentenced to 15 years in prison.
He has since emerged as a key Al Qaeda operative in Turkey and the Middle East. Two Turkish terror suspects interrogated at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq said al-Saqa served as a connection between the 2003 Istanbul bombers and Al Qaeda.