ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A Turkish court on Thursday freed a prominent journalist from prison pending the outcome of a trial that has raised fears for press freedoms in Turkey, the country's state-run agency reported.

The court in Istanbul released Soner Yalcin — the owner of an opposition news website — from custody after nearly two years, but barred him from traveling abroad and ordered him to report to a police station every week.

Yalcin is among 13 defendants, most of them journalists, who are on trial accused of forming the media wing of an alleged secularist terror network that prosecutors say plotted to topple Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamic-rooted government.

The defendants reject the accusation.

Some 300 other people, including journalists, academics, politicians and military officials, are being prosecuted separately, accused of forming the pro-secular terror network that prosecutors claim plotted a series of attacks that aimed to cause chaos in Turkey and provoke a coup, similar to past military takeovers in the country.

In September, a court convicted more than 300 military officers, including the former air force and navy chiefs, of a separate conspiracy to topple the government in 2003. The case that has helped curtail the military's hold on politics.

Critics of the trials linked to alleged coup plots insist many of the accused are innocent and have been targeted as part of a broader plan to muzzle dissent and undermine Turkey's secular legacy. Backers of the trials insist they are advancing democracy in the country.

Yalcin maintains his computer was hacked to frame him and others charged in the case.

The journalists' trial has increased concerns over media freedoms in the country. Dozens of journalists are in jail, prompting a media watchdog, the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, to describe the country this month as the "world's biggest prison for journalists."

Many of the journalists have been accused of aiding illegal groups under Turkey's broad-based anti-terrorism laws.

Other journalists on trial in the same case, including investigative journalists Ahmet Sik and Nedim Sener, were released from jail earlier in the year. A former police chief and a writer and government critic are the only two defendants still under custody in the case.

The trial has been adjourned until March 21.


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