Two Turkish Christians imprisoned near Izmir for a month on concocted charges of insulting Islam were ordered released March 30, after prosecution witnesses admitted that local gendarmarie officials pressured them to sign prepared complaints.Judge Levent Akcali of the Kemalpasa Court of First Instance declared that no evidence had been produced of any crime committed by the two accused Christians. As employees of the Kaya Publishing Company, the judge noted, the men had official permission through the Ministry of Culture to sell and distribute their religious materials. Ercan Sengul, 38, and Necati Aydin, 28, had been taken into custody March 1 in Kamalpasa after being reported to the local gendarmarie for distribution of Christian books and tapes in villages on the eastern edge of Izmir. Both men are baptized Turkish converts to Christianity who have formally changed their religious affiliation on their identity cards.Despite two formal petitions by their defense lawyers, the men were refused bail until their formal hearing before the Kemalpasa court. The two Christians were incarcerated for 30 days in separate group cells with several dozen other prisoners.When put on the witness stand, all three prosecution witnesses retracted their signed complaints. In a direct contradiction of the written testimony read out in court, each man declared that officers from the Armutlu Gendarmarie had presented him with a prepared statement of accusations and told him to sign it.Coffeehouse owner Ergun Turan from Yukarikizilca village said he was merely following orders from the gendarmarie to report to them if he saw any "suspicious people" who were selling or giving away books. "I signed the complaint without reading it," he told the ...

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