Turkish court hands down 27-year sentence to exiled journalist Dündar

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A Turkish court on Wednesday handed down a prison sentence of 27 years, six months to exiled journalist Can Dündar in a trial concerning a news report on National Intelligence Organization (MİT) trucks transporting arms to rebels in Syria.

Dündar, who fled Turkey in 2016 to avoid a government crackdown on critical journalists, was retried by the İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court as the country’s top appeals court overturned a previous sentence of five years, 10 months given to the journalist.

The court ruled for 18 years, nine months for obtaining state secrets for the purpose of political or military espionage and an additional eight years, nine months for supporting an armed terrorist organization without holding membership in it.

Lawyers for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and MİT were present at the Wednesday hearing, which was boycotted by Dündar’s lawyers, who slammed the charges as politically motivated.

In a statement on Tuesday the journalist’s lawyers said, “We do not want to be part of a practice to legitimize a previously decided political verdict.”

The court had delayed its verdict earlier this month after Dündar’s lawyers asked for the judges to recuse themselves to ensure a fair trial. The court rejected the request.

On May 29, 2015 Cumhuriyet daily journalists Dündar and Erdem Gül published a report on MİT trucks stopped by gendarmes, headlined “Here are the weapons Erdoğan said don’t exist.”

The story sparked a political firestorm in Turkey about the role of the Turkish spy agency in arming rebel factions in Syria and prompted an investigation into the journalists.

Former Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Dündar and former Ankara Representative Gül were arrested on November 26, 2015 on charges of “obtaining and disclosing the confidential information of the state for purposes of political or military espionage” and “knowingly and willingly aiding an armed terrorist organization as non-members.”

They were released a day after a Constitutional Court ruling of “rights violation” on February 25, 2016.

Accepting the indictment issued by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, the İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court sentenced Dündar to five years, 10 months in prison on the charge of “disclosing the confidential information of the state.”

The Supreme Court of Appeals overturned Dündar’s sentence on March 9, 2018. In light of the reversal, the new trial started in April at the İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court.

In a ruling dated October 7, the court confiscated the property of Dündar, who is living in Germany, and declared him a “fugitive.” His attorneys’ appeal against the ruling was rejected by a higher court on October 21.

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