This picture released by Cumhuriyet newspaper shows Dilek Dundar (L), Can’s wife, trying to stop a gunman as Can (L, background) is protected by another man, in Istanbul on May 6, 2016. (AFP)
A court in Turkey has sentenced two opposition journalists to a total of about 11 years in jail on charges of “leaking state secrets”, a few hours after one of them narrowly escaped a gun attack outside the courthouse.
Can Dundar, the editor-in-chief of center-left Turkish daily Cumhuriyet, faced a jail term of five years and 10 months while the paper’s Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul was given a five-year prison sentence by the Istanbul 14th Court of Serious Crimes on Friday.
The two men were acquitted of “espionage” and “coup attempt” but were found guilty of revealing state secrets in a story on Ankara’s role in arming Takfiri terrorists operating in Syria.
The duo, however, will not immediately be placed in detention as the court of appeal has yet to rule on the case.
“We will continue to do our job as journalists, despite all these attempts to silence us. We have to preserve courage in our country,” Dundar told reporters after the verdict.
Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Can Dundar (C), his wife Dilek Dundar (R) and the newspaper’s Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul (L) speak to the media following the two men’s trial in Istanbul on May 6, 2016. (AFP)
Dundar and Gul were arrested in late November 2015 and spent 92 days in pre-trial detention, almost half of it in solitary confinement, before the constitutional court ruled in late February that the detention was unfounded.
A screen grab from a video published on the website of the Turkish Cumhuriyet daily on May 29, 2015 shows mortar shells in boxes intercepted on a truck purportedly destined for Syria.
In late May last year, Cumhuriyet posted on its website footage purportedly showing Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT) trucks carrying weapons to Takfiri groups in Syria in January 2014. The Cumhuriyet video also purportedly showed trucks of the MIT being inspected by security officers.
The daily said the trucks were carrying about 1,000 mortar shells, hundreds of grenade launchers and more than 80,000 rounds of ammunition for light and heavy weapons. Ankara, however, denied the allegation, saying the trucks had been carrying humanitarian aid to Syria.
Turkey has been accused of supporting militant groups fighting to topple the Syrian government since March 2011. It also stands accused of being involved in illegal oil trade with the Takfiri Daesh terrorists.
This picture released by Cumhuriyet newspaper shows Dilek Dundar (L), Can’s wife, trying to stop a gunman as Can (in cream pants, background) is protected by another man, in Istanbul on May 6, 2016. (AFP)
Terror attack in front of the court
Meanwhile, Dundar survived a gun attack unscathed in front of the Istanbul Çaglayan courthouse during a break as the court prepared to deliver its verdict in his trial.
The 40-year-old assailant, identified as Murat Şahin, approached Dundar as he was speaking to journalists and fired two shots towards his legs while shouting, “You are a traitor. You will pay a price.” Dundar, however, remained unharmed as the gunman missed his shots. Police managed to detain the attacker. NTV television said that its reporter Yagiz Senkal was slightly injured by a ricocheting bullet.
“We know very well who showed me as a target,” Dundar said after the attack, accusing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and pro-government media of whipping up a climate of hatred against him.
“The [jail sentences] we received are not just to silence us. The bullet was not just to silence us. This was done to all of us, to scare us into silence, to make us stop talking,” he added.
The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) also strongly condemned the attack, calling it “unacceptable.”
“As long as there is a president in a country who calls journalists doing their jobs as traitor and says ‘[They] would pay a heavy price. I won’t let go of this,’ those kinds of attacks become normal,” read an HDP statement.
The Turkish government has been under fire for clamping down on journalists and sentencing them to long prison terms. Dozens of journalists are currently held in prison in the country.