After four years of legal battle in Turkey, a judge has acquitted two Christians of “insulting Turkishness” by spreading Christianity, but not without levying a hefty fine against them on another charge, Compass Direct News reported Oct. 19.

In October 2006, Turan Topal, 50, and Hakan Tastan, 41, started a legal battle after officers produced false witnesses to accuse them of spreading their faith and allegedly “insulting Turkishness, the military and Islam.”

At a court in Silivri an hour west of Istanbul, Judge Hayrettin Sevim acquitted the defendants on Oct. 14 of two charges that they had insulted the Turkish state (Article 301) and that they had insulted its people (Article 216) by spreading Christianity. Sevim cited lack of evidence.

The judge found them guilty, however, of collecting information on citizens without permission (Article 135) and sentenced them to seven months of imprisonment each. The court ruled that the two men could each pay a fine of 4,500 lira (US$3,170) instead of serving time, their lawyer Haydar Polat said.

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