Dündar, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Germany since the summer of 2016, was given 15 days on 17 September – until 5 October – to return to Turkey and appear before a court in Istanbul or else he will be considered a fugitive from justice and all of his property and bank account assets in Turkey could be seized.
His lawyer, Abbas Yalçin, reminded the court in vain that Dündar attended all of the hearings of his initial trial until the day that he was attacked outside the court.
“This measure, a first in 25 years, is both contrary to the values of democratic justice and unjust, cruel, vengeful and disproportionate inasmuch as it not only punishes this journalist but also his entire family,” RSF Turkey representative Erol Onderoglu said, calling for it to be revoked.
As Dündar himself said on ARTI TV: “In a four-minute hearing, the court decided on the destruction of what I and my family took 40 years to build.”
The measure has been condemned by more than 500 prominent civil society figures, including journalists, writers and Turkish academy members (such as Baskin Oran, Necmiye Alpay, Hamit Bozarslan, Mihail Vasiliadis, Eren Keskin, Ergin Cinmen and Nurcan Baysal), who published a joint letter yesterday describing it as “contrary to the law and vengeful.”
Dündar’s legal problems began in 2015 when, as editor of the daily Cumhuriyet, he published a report headlined, “Here are the weapons that Erdogan said do not exist.” Erdogan responded by threatening him on the air on the state TV channel TRT: “The person who wrote that exclusive article will pay dearly. I won’t let him get away with it.”
Dündar was jailed in November 2015 on charges of “obtaining and disseminating classified state information for the purpose of political or military espionage” and “support for an armed terrorist organization without being a member.” After three months in prison, he was released on the basis of a ruling by the Constitutional Court, which described his arrest as unconstitutional.
It was after appearing in court on 6 May 2016 on various charges including “support for a terrorist organization,” that Dündar narrowly escaped an armed attack as he left the court building in the Istanbul district of Caglayan. The light sentence passed on his assailant (10 months in prison) convinced Dündar that he should leave Turkey.
In Germany, Dündar founded the Turkish-language news website Özgürüz (We are free). He is nowadays also a member of the International Commission of the (RSF-launched) Information and Democracy Initiative.
Turkey is ranked 154th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.