The İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court on Monday acquitted Cumhuriyet daily journalist Erdem Gül of charges of “revealing state secrets” in a June 12, 2015 report on Turkish intelligence agency trucks that were allegedly carrying weapons to Syria.
Gül was tried by the same court in 2016 along with Can Dündar, the former editor-in-chief of the Cumhuriyet daily, and sentenced to five years in prison on the same charge. Dündar was also sentenced to five years, 10 months.
Upon appeal, the Supreme Court of Appeals in March dismissed the case, saying Gül should have been acquitted while Dündar should have been sentenced to 15 or 20 years.
In today’s retrial hearing, in addition to Gül and his lawyers, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s lawyers were also present.
The prosecutor demanded Gül’s acquittal since his report was subsequent to Dündar’s report of May 29, 2015 on National Intelligence Organization (MİT) trucks allegedly carrying arms to Syria, after which President Erdoğan publicly targeted the Cumhuriyet daily.
Gül and Dündar were also indicted for supporting a terrorist organization with their news reports on the MİT trucks, along with Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Enis Berberoğlu, who was sentenced to five years, 10 months in February. A hearing in this case will be held on Wednesday in İstanbul.
Both journalists were in prison for 92 days in 2016 and released after a decision by the Constitutional Court saying the local court had violated their rights to liberty and security as well as freedom of expression.
Can Dündar has been living abroad since July 2016.
Turkey is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). If Turkey falls two more places, it will make it to the list of countries on the blacklist, which have the poorest record in press freedom.
Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 239 journalists and media workers were in jail as of July 9, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 178 were under arrest pending trial while only 61 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 143 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.
Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down some 200 media outlets, including Kurdish news agencies and newspapers, after a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016. (SCF with turkishminute.com)