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5 Turkish officers jailed in killing of Christians

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By SELCAN HACAOGLU
The Associated Press
Monday, March 21, 2011; 5:07 AM

ANKARA, Turkey -- A Turkish court ordered five military officers and two civilians jailed Monday in a probe into the 2007 killing of three Christians, including a German national, over allegations that the attack was part of an alleged plot to topple the government.

It was not clear what charges the officers were facing but their arrests pending trial come after prosecutors examined an earlier letter by a whistle-blower who claimed the killings of Christians was part of a wider conspiracy to topple the Islamic-rooted government by creating chaos and to destabilize the country to trigger a military coup.

The Christians - a German and two Turks - were tied up and had their throats slit at a Bible-publishing house in the southern city of Malatya. Five civilians were arrested and charged with murder but it was not clear if their case would be merged with the coup plot trial.

There have a been a string of attacks in recent years on Christians in predominantly Muslim Turkey, where Christians make up less than 1 percent of the population of 74 million. Prosecutors have said the alleged coup plot included plans to target some Christians and minority figures.

Hundreds of people, including military officers, politicians and journalists, are already on trial for allegedly attempting to overthrow Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government, which came to power in 2002.

Critics contend that the government is using the case to jail secular-minded foes and to silence opponents. The government insists the trial is strengthening democratic rule in Turkey by helping to unravel shady networks that once operated with impunity in Turkey.

However, the recent arrests of several journalists, including two prominent investigative reporters, sparked protests from journalists groups and expressions of concern from Western governments and international media rights groups.


© 2011 The Associated Press

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