Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned “Turkey’s political and judicial persecution” of exiled journalist and former Cumhuriyet daily Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar, who is facing a possible life sentence in an ongoing trial over the Gezi Park protests of 2013.
Dündar’s persecution “discredits Turkey’s human rights reforms,” RSF said in a statement issued Wednesday.
Dündar is standing trial in absentia with six human rights activists over the Gezi Park protests. The seven defendants are accused of seeking to overthrow the government by orchestrating the mass protests that rocked the country in 2013.
Dündar was already sentenced in absentia in December by a Turkish court to 27 years, six months in prison on terror and espionage charges.
“Nothing can better illustrate this government’s arbitrary attitude towards its critics than the political and judicial persecution of the journalist Can Dündar,” RSF Turkey representative Erol Önderoglu said. “This trial is contrary to the spirit of its vaunted human rights reforms. Turkey cannot aspire to improve its relations with the European Union if it so openly flouts the law and justice with this kind of prosecution of a journalist who just did his job.”
Dündar, who was arrested in November 2015 and released following a Constitutional Court ruling of rights violation in late February 2016, was handed down a 27-year, six-month prison sentence in December by the İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court in a trial concerning a news report by Cumhuriyet on National Intelligence Organization (MİT) trucks transporting arms to rebels in Syria.
The story, which was published on May 29, 2015 by journalists Dündar and Erdem Gül and headlined “Here are the weapons Erdoğan said don’t exist,” in reference to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, sparked a political firestorm in Turkey about the role of the Turkish spy agency in arming rebel factions in Syria.
A Turkish court also ruled to seize the exiled journalist’s assets and declared him a fugitive in October.
Dündar had to leave Turkey following an armed attack in front of the Çağlayan Courthouse in İstanbul on May 6, 2016 and has lived in exile in Germany since then.
One of the leading jailers of journalists in the world, Turkey was ranked 153rd out of 180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index published by RSF last week.
According to the Stockholm Center for Freedom’s “Jailed and Wanted Journalists in Turkey” database, 174 journalists are currently behind bars in Turkey, while 167 are wanted and are either in exile or remain at large.