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A Turkish court on Wednesday sentenced a man to five months in prison for "insulting a section of society" after he put up a banner saying Jews and Armenians were not allowed to enter his business.

The ruling, which followed a complaint by a local human rights group, marks a change of public attitude towards minorities in European Union-aspirant Turkey.

Human rights groups and the EU have long accused Turkey of discrimination against its minorities.

Niyazi Capa, who heads a cultural association in the city of Eskisehir, west of Ankara, put up the banner to protest against Israel's offensive in Gaza earlier this year, which drew widespread condemnation in predominantly Muslim Turkey.

However, the easing of curbs on freedom of expression and other liberal reforms as a result of Ankara's drive to meet European standards have opened up debate in areas that were previously taboo.

Turkey, which historically has poor relations with Armenia, said in April it was close to establishing diplomatic relations after it closed its border with Armenia in 1993. Turkey and Armenia trace their own dispute back to the First World War killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday criticized state policies that led to the expulsion of tens of thousands of Christian ethnic Greeks in the 20th century as "fascist."

Erdogan's comments, the first of its kind by a prime minister, infuriated nationalists and other elements of Turkey's conservative establishment.