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Turkish prominent journalists Can Dundar and Erdem Gul have been jailed for revealing state secrets, in a case widely criticized by international observers.

Erdem Gul received five years and Can Dundar five years and 10 months.

Can Dundar and Erdem Gul, editor and Ankara bureau chief of opposition daily Cumhuriyet, had reported that Turkey had tried to ship arms to rebels fighting the Syrian government.

Shortly before the verdict, a gunman attempted to kill Can Dundar.

The attacker fired several shots while Can Dundar was briefing reporters outside the courthouse. The journalist escaped unharmed and the gunman was arrested. A reporter was lightly injured in the leg.

Photo AP

Photo AP

Speaking after the verdict, Can Dundar said the sentence, and the assassination attempt, were “not given only to suppress and silence us” but to “intimidate the Turkish media and make us scared of writing”.

Can Dundar and Erdem Gul were acquitted of more serious charge of espionage, which could have carried with it a life sentence. But their very prosecution has proved controversial, drawing sharp criticism from human rights campaigners and fellow journalists.

The two journalists are expected to appeal against the verdicts.

John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Director for Amnesty International, called the convictions a “travesty of justice”.

He said: “The decision, which punishes good journalism with five years’ imprisonment, shows how the law has buckled and broken under political pressure in Turkey.”

Can Dundar and Erdem Gul were charged in November with espionage after their reports in May 2015 alleging that Turkey’s intelligence services were sending weapons and ammunition to Islamist rebels fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Turkish security forces intercepted a convoy of trucks near the Syrian border in January 2014, and Cumhuriyet alleged these vehicles were linked to Turkey’s MIT intelligence organization.

Alongside the newspaper report was video footage showing police discovering crates of weapons hidden beneath boxes of medicine.

The Turkish government insisted that the trucks were not carrying weapons to the Islamist rebels as alleged, but bringing aid to Syria’s Turkmen minority, a Turkic-speaking ethnic group.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the video footage was a state secret, and by publishing it Cumhuriyet newspaper had engaged in an act of espionage.

He said in a TV address: “Whoever wrote this story will pay a heavy price for this. I will not let him go unpunished.”

Referring to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Can Dundar said: “Today, we know that the reason for the threats we have been receiving for weeks and the bullets fired from that gun today are due to the fact that we have been shown as targets by the highest office in the state.”

Media freedom has plummeted in Turkey, which now ranks 151st of 180 countries in an index by the watchdog Reporters without Borders.


Turkish journalist Can Dundar, who is standing trial on charges of revealing state secrets, has been attacked by a gunman outside an Istanbul court.

The gunman fired at least three shots outside the court, eyewitnesses said.

Can Dundar escaped unharmed but a reporter was reportedly injured.

Police say they have arrested the suspected gunman.Can Dundar shot outside Istanbul court

Erdem Gul, a former colleague of Can Dundar who is also on trial, said the attacker shouted “traitor” as he fired.

Can Dundar, a former newspaper editor, was briefing reporters outside the courthouse when the incident occurred.

The journalist is standing trial alongside Erdem Gul over a series of reports in Cumhuriyet newspaper that alleged Turkish intelligence operatives were transporting weapons to Syria in early 2014.

Can Dundar and Erdem Gul face life in prison if convicted.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has faced international criticism over the decision to prosecute the two journalists.

Can Dundar and Erdem Gul are among a number of journalists and human rights activists who have been detained or prosecuted in Turkey in recent months.


Prominent Turkish journalists Can Dundar and Erdem Gul, from the newspaper Cumhuriyet, are due to go on trial charged with revealing state secrets.

They were arrested in November 2015 over a report alleging that the Turkish government had tried to ship arms to Islamists in Syria.

Can Dundar and Erdem Gul deny the charges but face possible life sentences if found guilty.

Supporters of the two journalists say the case is an important test of press freedom in Turkey.

The Turkish government has come under increasing international criticism over its treatment of journalists.

Earlier this month, Turkish police raided the offices of the country’s biggest newspaper, Zaman, hours after a court ruling placed it under state control.

Photo AP

Photo AP

Can Dundar, Cumhuriyet‘s editor-in-chief, and Erdem Gul, Ankara bureau chief, were arrested in November 2015.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan personally filed a criminal complaint against the Cumhuriyet journalists.

They were held on pre-trial detention but were released in February after the Constitutional Court ruled their rights to liberty and free expression had been violated.

Can Dundar said the government was trying to intimidate Turkey’s journalists.

“There’s an effort to arrest an entire profession and the public – what foreigners call a <<chilling effect>>,” he said.

“What’s trying to be created is a mechanism of self-censorship and an increasing empire of fear.”

Campaigners say the case is politically motivated and part of a growing crackdown on media critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

On March 24, dozens of prominent writers published an open letter to PM Ahmet Davutoglu, urging the government to drop the charges against the Cumhuriyet journalists.

“We believe that Can Dundar and Erdem Gul are facing life in prison simply for carrying out their legitimate work as journalists,” they said.

The letter also voiced concern over the “increasing climate of fear and censorship and the stifling of critical voices in Turkey”.

Zaman newspaper is closely linked to the Hizmet movement of influential US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.

The government says Hizmet is a “terrorist” group aiming to overthrow Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Fethullah Gulen was once an ally of Recep Tayyip Erdogan but is now seen by the Turkish President as a threat to his authority.

President Bashar al-Assad is quoted as saying he regrets “100 per cent” a Turkish jet was shot down after entering Syrian airspace.

In an interview with Turkey’s Cumhuriyet newspaper, Bashar al-Assad argues that the plane was flying in an area previously used by Israel’s air force.

The plane went down in the Mediterranean last month and the two pilots have not been found.

The incident has heightened tensions between the two countries.

President Bashar al-Assad is quoted as saying he regrets "100 per cent" a Turkish jet was shot down after entering Syrian airspace

President Bashar al-Assad is quoted as saying he regrets "100 per cent" a Turkish jet was shot down after entering Syrian airspace

Last week, Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned Syria’s action and described the neighboring country as a “clear and present threat”.

Turkey reinforced border areas with rocket-launchers and anti-aircraft guns.

On Sunday, Turkey said it had scrambled six F-16 fighter jets when Syrian helicopters had approached the border.

“We will not allow (the shooting down) to turn into open combat between the two countries,” President Bashar al-Assad is quoted as saying.

Cumhuriyet, which published the interview on Tuesday, does not indicate when it took place but shows a picture of Bashar al-Assad standing beside its Ankara bureau chief Utku Cakirozer.

In other developments:

• Turkish media reported late on Monday that another 85 Syrian soldiers, including 14 senior officers, had defected across the Turkish border. It is one of the biggest groups of army defections since the March 2011 uprising in Syria began.

• Syria has been accused of practicing a widespread policy of state-sanctioned torture, in a Human Rights Watch report . The group says it has identified at least 27 detention centres across Syria.

• UN human rights chief Navi Pillay has said that both Syrian government forces and the opposition have been involved in operations that harmed civilians. She has appealed for further militarization of the conflict to be avoided at all costs.