A court Thursday sentenced five policemen to 7 1/2 years in prison for beating a 27-year-old journalist to death during detention. Human rights groups and others deplored the sentences as lenient.

A panel of three judges convicted the five for killing Metin Goktepe by kicking and punching him and hitting him repeatedly with truncheons in January 1996. Six other police officers, also charged with his death, were found not guilty.Goktepe's body was found in an Istanbul park the day after he and hundreds of other people were detained during a funeral for prisoners killed in jail riots. Police claim he fell off a wall, hit his head and died.

But witnesses say Turkish police beat him for hours in front of hundreds of onlookers.

The trial was moved to this city, 275 miles east of Istanbul, in an unsuccessful bid to avoid attention. Hundreds of journalists and human rights activists attended the heavily secured proceedings, seen as a test of the government's promise to crack down on torture and abuses by security forces.

After the verdicts were announced, about 200 journalists and human rights activists launched a march in the city. Holding their cameras above their heads and throwing their pens into a heap on the ground, the journalists shouted "Each one of us is Metin!"

The defendants, who were eligible for life sentences, can be released on parole after serving one-third of their terms.

"They got the minimum sentence possible," said lawmaker Sabri Ergul. "The verdict is far from satisfying the public."

Turkish rights activists also criticized the outcome of the trial, doubting it would send a strong message about police brutality.

"The real culprits who need to be brought to justice are the police chiefs and the governors of Istanbul of that time," said Nazmi Gur, head of the independent Turkish Human Rights Association.

Goktepe's lawyers said they would appeal the verdict.

Turkey is frequently assailed for human rights abuses and tops the list of countries that restrict freedom of the press.