Two Turkish journalists jailed for revealing state secrets

An Istanbul court on Friday sentenced two Turkish journalists to five years in prison over a report they published last year about alleged arms shipments from Turkey to Syria.

The sentences came shortly after a dramatic incident outside the courthouse in which one of the defendants was nearly shot by a man who shouted, "You're a traitor to your country."

Can Dundar, the editor-in-chief of the Cumhuriyet newspaper, and Erdem Gul, the left-wing daily's bureau chief in Ankara, were both found guilty of reaveling state secrets.

Dundar received a five-year-and-10 month sentence, while Gul received five years, according to a dpa reporter in the courtroom.

Two hours before the sentencing, Dundar survived unscathed an attempt on his life when a gunman fired at him during a break in the proceedings.

Dundar's wife, Dilek Dundar, rushed the gunman as he drew his weapon and grabbed his throat. Dilek Dundar said she heard the assailant call her husband a traitor while firing the gun at Dundar. She described her reaction to grab his throat a "reflex." The gunman was quickly arrested without resistance, according to broadcaster CNN Turk.

Dundar, who says he has been the subject of death threats, told reporters that he held President Recep Tayyip Erdogan responsible: "I do not know the assassin, but I know exactly who encouraged him and made me the target."

Erdogan, a plaintiff in the case along with the Turkish secret service, had promised the pair would pay a "heavy price" for their reporting.

CNN Turk identified Dundar's attacker as a man aged around 40 from the central Anatolian town of Sivas, but did not name him.

The two journalists had been accused of multiple charges that could have resulted in life imprisonment if found guilty.

But on two of the most serious accusations - espionage and attempting to overthrow the government - they were ruled innocent.

Dundar and Gul still face a separate charge of aiding a terrorist organization, which will be dealt with at another trial.

Dundar's lawyer, Bulent Utku, said his client would appeal the verdict.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a New York-based press freedom watchdog, condemned Turkey for the sentencing.

"Leading Turkish journalists Can Dundar and Erdem Gul were unjustly sentenced today, but what was really on trial was the Turkish criminal system, which is guilty of gross misconduct," said Joel Simon, CPJ's executive director.

The case against them concerned an article last May in which Cumhuriyet reported that it had evidence that Turkey's secret service had arranged in early 2014 for weapons shipments across the border to aid Islamist rebels fighting to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Although Ankara has repeatedly called for al-Assad's removal, it denies arming rebel fighters.

Both Dundar and Gul spent three months in jail on remand before the Constitutional Court ordered their release in late February.

The trial began on March 25, sparking outrage among leading human rights groups and press freedom watchdogs.

Dundar said of Friday's verdict: "That was a legal attack intended to silence all journalists in Turkey."

Turkey ranks 161 out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index.

Last update: Sat, 07/05/2016 - 13:06
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