ESKISEHIR, Turkey, Feb. 13 (UPI) -- A lawyer for Turkish protesters sentenced to jail for chanting a slogan critical of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said the sentences were "harsh."
The sentences were handed down after attorneys for some of the defendants argued the slogan was within the bounds of free speech, Today's Zaman reported Wednesday.
The group had made a statement to the press, in front of a government building in Eskisehir in 2012, critical of Turkey's health policies.
They were arrested after members of the group concluded the statement with the chant, "The servant of the bosses and International Monetary Fund, Tayyip Erdogan."
The judge found three of the defendants guilty of insulting a state official and sentenced them to one year in jail. The remaining defendants, convicted of the same offense, were given two-year sentences because the judge said they had not shown repentance.
At a hearing prior to sentencing, two of the defendants had asked to be acquitted, claiming they did not know what they did was a crime. The lawyer for another defendant argued the chant was allowed by freedom of speech and that the slogan had no criminal intent.
Attorneys representing the group expressed shock at the sentences, saying "it is hard to understand such a harsh punishment over a slogan."