An İstanbul court on Thursday dropped a case against the executives of the ultranationalist Aydınlık newspaper over stories they ran in January 2014 on National Intelligence Organization (MİT) trucks transporting arms to rebels in Syria, citing the expiration of the statute of limitations.
Editor-in-Chief İlker Yücel and editor Orhan Ceyhun Bozkurt were prosecuted for revealing state secrets after they published stories of trucks carrying arms in Turkey’s Adana province.
The defendants were accused of aiding “FETÖ,” a pejorative term used to label the faith-based Gülen movement as a terrorist organization by the Turkish government, for running a story on state secrets.
At the hearing on Thursday Yücel said Aydınlık has consistently run stories against the Gülen movement, adding that the report must be considered an exercise of freedom of expression.
In similar criminal cases against Cumhuriyet daily journalist Can Dündar and main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Enis Berberoğlu, the courts convicted the plaintiffs for running the same story even after Aydınlık published its report.
Berberoğlu was sentenced to five years, 10 months in prison for leaking classified information to a newspaper.
When the MİT trucks story first broke in 2015, it produced a political firestorm in Turkey about the role of the Turkish spy agency in arming rebel factions in Syria and prompted an investigation into Cumhuriyet daily journalists Dündar and Erdem Gül, who published the report.
They were first jailed while facing trial on spy charges for publishing footage purporting to show MİT transporting weapons to Syria in 2014. Later, the two journalists were released pending trial.
When Dündar later published a book titled “We Are Arrested,” he mapped out the details of the news story on May 27, 2015, saying that a leftist lawmaker brought the information to him. Upon that revelation, the İstanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office launched a new investigation and examined Dündar’s phone calls during the days leading up to the publication of the story.