Five Turks remanded in custody for killing of two Leeds supporters

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Five Turkish men were yesterday remanded in custody in connection with the killing of two Leeds United fans in Istanbul last week, according to the Foreign Office, as the mood in Turkey turned from recrimination to guilt and sorrow.

Ali Umit Demir, who Turkish police say confessed to stabbing one of the Leeds fans, is believed to be one of the five.

Christopher Loftus and Kevin Speight were stabbed to death in running street battles between Leeds supporters and locals last Wednesday night, ahead of a Uefa Cup semi-final between Leeds and Turkish side Galatasaray.

The accused are expected to face trial in around ten days' time, and prosecutors are thought likely to ask for jail sentences of up to 20 years.

Turkish law allows for the death penalty for murder, but death sentences are almost never carried out, and are not applied if the crime is provoked. The stabbings appear to have been caused by rowdy behaviour by Leeds supporters and verbal spats with locals.

One of the accused told the court yesterday that Leeds fans had provoked the violence by setting fire to a Turkish flag.

A total of 18 men appeared in court in connection with the incident, but 10 were released without being charged. Prosecutors said they had not ruled out pressing charges against the released men at a later date.

Galatasaray Football Club yesterday reacted angrily to calls from the Yorkshire side for Turkish fans to be banned from the return leg of the tie at Elland Road. "The suspects are in the hands of justice ... and will be punished," Faruk Suren, the club's chairman, said. "The issue should not be turned into a blood feud."

However, on the streets of Istanbul, the mood has transformed overnight. People initially reacted by putting all the blame on the Leeds fans, but yesterday, for the first time, bouquets of flowers appeared at the spot on Cumhuriyet Street where the stabbings occurred.

"Two murderous crimes of this sort do not belong in our nation," said the message pinned to one of the bouquets.

In another indication of a change in mood, a group of Turkish lawyers said it was set to prosecute Turkey's Star newspaper, which printed headlines glorifying the killings.

"We smashed the hooligans' mouths and noses on the street and on the pitch," the Star said in its front page headline last Friday. The lawyers said they would prosecute the Star under a law against inciting hatred on racial grounds - a law more often used for jailing exponents of Kurdish rights.

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