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21 Acquitted in Turkey Coup Plot Trial

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A Turkish court has begun sentencing hundreds of defendants accused of plotting to overthrow the government, so far handing down prison sentences of up to 20 years to some and acquitting 21 others.

The court is announcing the verdicts individually Monday in the trial of 275 people, including military officers, politicians, academics and journalists, in the landmark and divisive case about an alleged conspiracy to overthrow Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government.

The defendants face sentences ranging from a few years to life in prison.

Security forces have blocked access to the tribunal in the town of Silivri near Istanbul, allowing in only suspects, lawyers and journalists.

The rulings cap a five-year trial that has been a central drama in tensions between the country's secular elite and Mr. Erdogan's Islamic-oriented AKP party.

While prosecutors say the defendants are guilty of varying levels of involvement in the alleged plot, critics say the legal proceeding has been a ploy to intimidate opponents and critics of the government.



The international community has voiced concern about the trial. The U.S. State Department's annual human rights report cited the prolonged pretrial detention of many of the defendants. Human Rights Watch has also criticized the case, saying there are serious concerns about the fairness of the trial.

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