Turkish journalists from the local Cumhuriyet newspaper are facing multiple life sentences for publishing a story and a video revealing that Turkish intelligence were carrying weapons to anti-government forces in Syria.
Dogan news agency reported that prosecutors asked an Istanbul court to sentence the newspaper Cumhuriyet’s editor-in-chief, Can Dundar, and Ankara bureau chief, Erdem Gül, each to a penalty of one aggravated life sentence, one ordinary life sentence and 30 years in jail.
The two well-known journalists are facing charges of “gathering secret state documents for the purposes of political and military espionage,” “attempting to topple the government of the Republic of Turkey or attempting to stop either partially or totally the government from fulfilling its duties” as well as the “deliberate support for a terrorist organization without being a member.”
The men were arrested in November last year over a video they published showing trucks owned by the Turkish National Intelligence Agency (MIT) in southern Turkey in early 2014.
The paper claimed the video was proof the trucks were carrying weapons shipments to extremist groups in Syria fighting against Syrian President Bashar Assad. The trucks were let go a short while after when the police searching them received a call confirming the drivers were MIT agents.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Hakan Fidan, the head of the MIT, are named as plaintiffs in the 473-page indictment, Dogan agency reports. Fidan is one of Erdogan’s most-trusted allies within the government.
Dundar and Gul have been in the maximum security prison Silivri since November. Erdogan, founder of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) which has a parliamentary majority, personally filed the lawsuit back in June and said the people behind the story would “pay a heavy price.”
Shocked by life sentences demanded against #Cumhuriyet journalists C.Dündar+E. Gül. Equality + proportionality before the law are a must 1/3— Johannes Hahn (@JHahnEU) January 27, 201
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said Wednesday that his government opposes the pre-trial detention of the pair but it was up to the judiciary to decide on the matter of their detention.
However, many in Turkey argue the judiciary has been acting in favor of the government on most occasions especially against journalists. In fact, AKP-led government made changes last year to laws giving the government more powers over Turkey’s High Council of Judges and Prosecutors.
The justice minister is the chairman of the seven-member council. Also, the president of Turkey has the power to appoint four of the seven members of the council, which appoints all judges and prosecutors in the country.
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