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Four Turks Charged in Soccer Deaths

April 10, 2000

ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) _ Four Turkish men were charged with murder and jailed Monday in the stabbing deaths of two English soccer fans.

A fifth was held on lesser charges in connection with the deaths before last week’s UEFA Cup game in Istanbul.

Three other youths were charged but were released pending trial. Ten others questioned were released Monday.

The slain fans, Christopher Loftus and Kevin Speight, died in downtown street fights the day before the Turkish club Galatasaray beat Leeds United 2-0 in the first leg of the semifinal.

Under Turkish law, a court charges suspects when they are arrested. Prosecutors then investigate further and indict the suspects before they are brought to trial.

If prosecutors cannot find sufficient evidence against the suspects, they may ask the court to drop the charges.

Turkish accounts said many of the English fans were drunk and provoked the violence, harassing women on the streets and gesturing obscenely with the Turkish flag. English fans said they were ambushed by Turkish youths armed with knives.

In England, Leeds chairman Peter Ridsdale accused Galatasaray of being ``opportunistic.″

Ridsdale wants Galatasaray fans barred from the April 20 second leg in Leeds, hoping to head off further violence. Galatasaray suggests that the game be played at a neutral site or that Leeds fans be banned from their own stadium.

UEFA, the governing body of European soccer, said it will rule Wednesday. UEFA has asked Leeds if the team could guarantee the safety of Turkish fans.

In addition, UEFA said it asked Leeds to assess the ``security implications″ of Turkish fans arriving in Leeds but being denied entry to the stadium.

Galatasaray general secretary Sinan Kalpakcioglu said the club will wait for Leeds’ response before deciding whether to seek a neutral venue or a ban of Leeds fans.

Galatasaray officials are angry at Leeds for warning fans against going to the game.

``The suspects are in the hands of justice... and will be punished,″ Galatasaray chairman Faruk Suren said. ``The issue should not be turned into a blood feud.″

Ridsdale questions the motives of Galatasaray in this dispute.

``They have been trying to find any means possible to get through to the final without kicking a football,″ he said.

The UEFA Cup final is May 17 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The Leeds chairman said Galatasaray should forget about bringing its fans.

``They should turn up as a team, with their officials,″ he said. ``They will be afforded every respect and given every opportunity to savor the hospitality which is afforded to any visiting club. And whatever the result, it should stand.″

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