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ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Nine people jailed before a 2017 visit by Turkey's president and accused of belonging to a militant group were cleared of terrorism and criminal arms charges in Greece on Wednesday.
Defense lawyer Aleca Zorbala said that the Athens court acquitted three of the defendants of all charges. The others received sentences of two years and seven months in prison for misdemeanor weapons possession and forged documents. All nine were in jail since November 2017.
The prosecutor at the trial had also called for the defendants to be acquitted of the terrorism charges.
"There was no evidence," Zorbala said.
The arrests followed a major anti-terrorism police operation days before Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's visit.
They were charged with belonging to the far-left Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front, or DHKP-C, deemed a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union.
Zorbala said her clients' arrests were linked with the Turkish leader's visit.
"The timing was not at all a coincidence," she said. "(Greek authorities) wanted to show Erdogan that people he considers to be terrorists face arrest here and that he would be safe in Greece."
The defendants are of Kurdish, Turkish or Arab origin. Six are recognized political refugees.
Originally founded in the late 1970s as Dev Sol, the Marxist-Leninist DHKP-C is believed to be responsible for a string of assassinations and bombings in Turkey, including a 2013 suicide bomb attack on the U.S. Embassy in Ankara.
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