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Turkey: 4 journalists released in coup plot trial
4 journalists released from jail in Turkish coup plot trial
By The Associated Press

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) ' A Turkish court released four journalists from jail on Monday who had been accused of being involved in an alleged secularist plot to topple the country's Islamic-rooted government.

The case is considered a key test for press freedom in Turkey.

Investigative journalists Nedim Sener and Ahmet Sik were freed more than one year after they were detained along with more than 10 other journalists for allegedly forming the media wing of an alleged secularist network that aimed to bring down Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government ' charges they deny.

The trial highlights growing concerns about threats to freedom of expression in Turkey, where dozens of journalists are jailed on terrorism charges. Erdogan's Islam-based government has come under increased international criticism that it is trying to silence challengers.

The government rejects the accusation, citing its record of instituting Western-backed reforms. It says it must prosecute an alleged network of hardline secularists accused of plotting a coup.

Some 400 other people are also on trial for being part of the alleged network, which prosecutors say plotted in 2003 to create chaos and spark a military coup. Critics say the trial is based on flimsy or fabricated evidence and aims to intimidate and muzzle government opponents.

The court in Istanbul released four of the journalists, considering the time they spent in jail and that the charges against them might be changed. Six of 13 defendants in the case remain in jail, including writer and government critic Yalcin Kucuk and Soner Yalcin, the owner of Oda TV.

Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc expressed satisfaction at the court ruling.

"It is pleasing," Arinc told a televised news conference. "It was sad to see them jailed."

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