ANKARA: A Turkish court has released from custody seven suspects accused of the multiple rape of two girls aged 12 and 14 -- because they thought the victims were older, local media reported Monday.
The two girls were allegedly raped 13 times by 10 men on trial in an Ankara court, the Cumhuriyet newspaper reported.
The court heard that the minors had said they were willing to have intercourse, but prosecutors said their alleged consent "has no legal meaning" because they were under 15.
One of the suspects testified that the victims -- who were first assaulted in January by a lift mechanic and an unemployed man -- had lied about their age.
Seven of the defendants were freed for duration of the trial but another three remain in custody.
"One of them looked 19 or 20 years old, the other looked like she was 22 or 23," one suspect told the court.
"They lied to us about their age," said another, the newspaper reported.
Ordering the release of seven suspects, the court said the 14-year-old looked like a girl of 17-18.
Incidents of rape and sexual assault are common in Turkey, a patriarchal society, and in many cases, girls or women refrain from reporting attacks to the police.
The age of consent in Turkey is 18.