The trial of 36 people accused of a deadly bombing in central Istanbul last November began on Tuesday, Turkey’s state news agency reported. On November 13, 2022, an explosion hit Istanbul’s famous Istiklal Avenue, a busy street lined with shops and restaurants, killing six people, including two children, and injuring 99 others. Fifteen of the defendants, including the alleged bomber Ahlam Albashir, they were in the courtroom for the trial to begin. Another 12 defendants attended via video link from prison. It is unclear where the remaining nine are located.
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Albashir faces a number of terrorism-related charges. If convicted, she faces up to seven life sentences and another 1,900-3,000 years in prison. Because her indictment was not read to her in her native Arabic, her presiding judge allowed her to defer her defense until her next hearing. According to the indictment prepared by the Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office, Albashir and a man named Bilal el-Hacmaus were intelligence agents of the YPG, a Syrian Kurdish militia group, and its political branch, the PYD. Turkey sees the YPG as the Syrian arm of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, which has waged a decade-long insurgency inside Turkey. According to the indictment, the two suspects received special training from the YPG/PYD and were sent to Turkey together with the explosives, where they traveled to Istanbul with the help of a network set up by the organisation. El-Hacmaus managed to flee the country. Arrest warrants have also been issued for several PKK and YPG leaders over the case, including PKK leader Cemil Bayik. It is not known whether she is in Türkiye, Syria or Iraq.