Cumhuriyet journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül were sentenced to prison terms by an Istanbul court today for divulging state secrets, a verdict condemned as “scandalous” by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) which called for the pair to to be acquitted on appeal.
After a hurried trial, Dündar, Cumhuriyet’s editor, received a sentence of five years and 10 months, and Gül, the paper’s Ankara bureau chief, was given a five-year sentence. They will be placed in detention if these sentences are confirmed by the court of appeal. The charges are related their revelations about Turkish arms deliveries to Islamist groups in Syria.
“Journalism is considered a crime in Turkey”
“It is not only Can Dündar and Erdem Gül who were put on trial,” said RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire, “journalism itself has been convicted.”
“Journalism is considered a crime in Turkey. This shameful verdict sends a clear signal designed to intimidate the whole profession, which is fighting
for its survival. We urge the court of appeal to show more independence and to acknowledge that Can Dündar and Erdem Gül were only doing their job.”
The two journalists, who were cleared of espionage, still face charges of helping a terrorist organization and could face life imprisonment if convicted. In his closing argument, prosecutor Evliya Çalışkan asked for these charges to be dealt with separately since it was linked to another trial also in progress.
RSF reiterated its request for all charges against Dündar and Gül to be dropped. Sign the petition to this effect on our website rsf.org/en
Gunman opens fire on Dündar outside court
During the hearing, an armed man fired several shots at Dündar outside the Çağlayan courthouse while the judges were deliberating. The gunman shouted “traitor” before being overpowered. A reporter for the television station NTV, Yağız Şenkal, was slightly injured by a ricocheting bullet.
“Unfortunately, this attack was predictable,” said Erol Önderoğlu, RSF representative in Turkey. “When journalists are constantly called terrorists and traitors in official speeches and in the media, consequences are to be expected. It is high time to put an end to this scurrilous campaign and ban such hate speech once and for all.”