By Sarah Rainsford
BBC News, Istanbul
16 February 2007
A judge in Istanbul has been hearing closing statements in the trial of 73 men for a wave of suicide bomb attacks in the city three years ago.
The attacks on a British-owned bank, the UK consulate and two synagogues killed 58 people, including the UK consul-general, and wounded hundreds.
The men on trial are accused of forming an extremist cell in Turkey with links to al-Qaeda.
Lawyers believe the judge could pronounce a verdict on Friday.
A Syrian national is also on trial accused of helping to mastermind the attack and channelling funds to the bombers from al-Qaeda.
This long trial is finally drawing to a very slow close.
Inside a cramped and stuffy courtroom filled with armed police, the main defendants have been protesting their innocence, making long, often ideological final speeches.
They are accused of plotting the bomb attacks of 2003 when four trucks were packed with explosives and rammed into the British consulate in Istanbul, HSBC Bank and two synagogues.
The men arrested soon afterwards deny any involvement.
In court, many have admitted attending training camps in Afghanistan for Islamic extremists.
They say they have sent other Muslims to fight what they call a holy war in places like Chechnya.
Turkish security outside trial
Security has been tightened around the courthouse in Istanbul
Some admit meeting Osama bin Laden.
But all but one man claim they had no part in the Istanbul bombings and they say they have no links to al-Qaeda.
On trial alongside the Turks is a Syrian man the state prosecutor has labelled a high-level operative for al-Qaeda.
Loa'i al-Saqa was caught on the south coast preparing to bomb an Israeli cruise ship.
But he denies he was involved in the Istanbul bomb plot.
He is accused of financing the attacks and acting as a link man to al-Qaeda.
The prosecutor has demanded life imprisonment for al-Saqa and the four Turkish men identified as ringleaders in the bomb attacks.
Several of the accused still have statements to read out in court on Friday.
Some could last two hours or more.
But after almost three years of sporadic hearings, most lawyers sense the judge now wants to bring this mass trial to an end.