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Turkey court demands graver charge, longer jail for top journalist

By AFP

Added 9th March 2018 07:48 PM

Dundar, former editor-in-chief of leading opposition daily Cumhuriyet, was in May 2016 sentenced to five years and 10 months jail while the paper's Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul was given five years.

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Dundar, former editor-in-chief of leading opposition daily Cumhuriyet, was in May 2016 sentenced to five years and 10 months jail while the paper's Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul was given five years.

PIC: Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, gestures as he delivers a speech during the inauguration of his ruling Justice and Development (AKP) Party's Politics Academy, in Ankara, Turkey, Friday, March 9, 2018. Erdogan said Turkish troops and Ankara-backed opposition fighters, which took control of the key town of Jinderes on Thursday, were 6 kilometers away from the city of Afrin, in the Syrian Kurdish-held enclave in northwest Syria (AFP)

TURKEY - Turkey's top appeals court on Friday quashed the verdict of leading Turkish journalist Can Dundar who was sentenced to jail in 2016, saying that he should face an even more serious charge and a longer prison term of up to 20 years.

Dundar, former editor-in-chief of leading opposition daily Cumhuriyet, was in May 2016 sentenced to five years and 10 months jail while the paper's Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul was given five years.

They were convicted by an Istanbul court of revealing state secrets over a story accusing the government of seeking to illicitly deliver arms bound for Syria.

But Turkey's Court of Cassation, known as the Yargitay, ruled that Dundar should go on trial on far more serious charges of "providing information for the purpose of espionage", the state-run Anadolu news agency reported

This would see him face a jail term of between 15-20 years, it said. The Istanbul court had in 2016 acquitted both men of espionage charges.

Neither was sent to jail immediately and both walked free pending appeal.

Dundar left Turkey for Germany, saying he refused to put his head "under the guillotine" and founded a Berlin-based Turkish news site called Ozguruz (We are Free).

"It seems that the Yargitay has found the punishment insufficient," Dundar said in a statement published by Ozguruz. "Now they will seek evidence. But the evidence is the newspaper, in the news we wrote."

Gul has stayed in Turkey and kept his job at the newspaper. The Yargitay said that Gul should be acquitted of the espionage charges as there was no evidence.

Cumhuriyet's report on a shipment of arms intercepted at the Syrian border in January 2014 sparked a furore when it was published, fuelling speculation about Turkey's role in the Syrian conflict and its alleged ties to Islamist groups.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had reacted furiously to the allegations, personally warning Dundar he would "pay a heavy price".

It was the first in a number of high profile criminal cases against journalists which multiplied after the failed July 2016 coup against Erdogan and amplified concerns over press freedoms in the country.

The ruling of the Yargitay was issued as the trial resumed in Istanbul of 17 current and former writers, cartoonists and executives from Cumhuriyet on charges of supporting terror groups.

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