ShareThis Page
World

Turkish journalists facing life in prison back in court

| Friday, April 1, 2016, 6:24 a.m.
Can Dundar, the editor-in-chief of opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet (right) and Erdem Gul, the paper's Ankara representative speak to the media before the start of their trial in Istanbul, Friday, April 1, 2016.
Can Dundar, the editor-in-chief of opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet (right) and Erdem Gul, the paper's Ankara representative speak to the media before the start of their trial in Istanbul, Friday, April 1, 2016.

ISTANBUL — The closed-door trial resumed Friday of two Turkish journalists accused of espionage and aiding a terrorist organization, a case that has heightened concerns over press freedoms in Turkey.

Cumhuriyet newspaper's chief editor Can Dundar and Ankara representative Erdem Gul face life imprisonment if found guilty of revealing state secrets over their report on alleged government arms-smuggling to Syrian rebels.

They published images that reportedly date back to January 2014, when local authorities searched Syria-bound trucks, leading to a standoff with Turkish intelligence officials. Cumhuriyet said the images proved Turkey was smuggling arms to Islamist rebels. The pair are accused of aiding the moderate Islamic movement led by U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, a foe of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Human rights group say the two have done nothing but their job and the charges should be dropped. The case is seen as a bellwether of the future of press freedom in the country, which has witnessed a growing crackdown on independent and opposition media over the past few years.

“The ones who should be on trial are not us,” Dundar said before the start of the second hearing.

Dozens of their supporters at the Istanbul courthouse where they are on trial chanted: “Free press cannot be silenced.” Others came with their mouths taped over in an act of protest.

The journalists were arrested in November after Erdogan filed a personal complaint against the two. In February, Turkey's Constitutional Court ruled that their rights were violated and they were released from jail. Erdogan said he rejected the court's decision.

The Turkish president is facing increased criticism for his government's crackdown on free speech at home. Speaking in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Erdogan insisted no journalist is in prison or on trial in his country because of their journalism work. He also said he welcomed criticism but would not tolerate insults.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me