Can Dündar, Cumhuriyet newspaper

27 years in prison for espionage for Turkish journalist Can Dündar

Dündar, who has an international arrest warrant since 2018, has been found guilty of helping the group that organised the 2016 coup.

An Istanbul court sentenced this Wednesday the Turkish journalist Can Dündar – former editor of the Cumhuriyet newspaper and who fled to Germany as a fugitive in 2016 – to 27 years and 6 months in prison in absentia on charges of espionage and collaboration with a terrorist organisation through the publication of State secrets.

The trial was held in absentia since Dündar is a fugitive from Turkish justice and has had an international arrest warrant since 2018. During the last session of the process, the prosecution reaffirmed its request for a sentence of 15 to 20 years in prison for espionage in addition to another 7.5 to 15 year sentence for collaboration with a terrorist organisation.

Finally, the court magistrates sentenced Dündar to 18 years and 9 months on charges of “providing information – which should be confidential for the security of the State or for national or international political benefits – for the purpose of carrying out political or military espionage“.

The Istanbul court also found the fugitive journalist guilty of helping the terrorist organisation FETÖ – accused in Turkey of organising the failed 2016 coup – although, nevertheless, it does not consider that he was part of the group’s structure, but emphasises that the accused was at the time of the events chief editor of the well-known newspaper Cumhuriyet.

Dündar wanted to undermine the credibility of the Turkish government

In this way – the sentence indicates – and thanks to his position, Dündar contributed to creating a perception among public opinion in favor of the terrorist group by publishing news that would later also be used by FETÖ to justify their actions, including the coup attempt.

Said news was widely disseminated in the foreign press, where, citing Cumhuriyet, it was said that a weapons shipment was actually destined for Daesh, thus undermining Turkey’s international political credibility and creating the image of being “a State that supported terrorism”, thus generating a environment favorable to FETÖ and the coup, adds the court.

For all these reasons, the court considers that considering the damage caused and the support it brought to the terrorist organisation and its plans, Dündar cannot receive the minimum penalty for the charge of collaboration with a terrorist group and receives an additional sentence of 8 years and 9 months in prison, adding the total penalty 27 years and 6 months in prison.

In 2014, Turkish military intercepted trucks belonging to secret services

The case to which the court refers is the publication in 2014 by the Cumhuriyet newspaper of some images of an alleged MİT (Turkish intelligence services) trucks loaded with weapons destined to Turkmen groups in Syria, subjected to bombardments by the Syrian regime. The cargo, classified as humanitarian aid, was intercepted in Adana in a strange police operation ordered by former prosecutor Özca Şişman and former Brigadier General Hamza Celepoğlu, and the MİT agents were handcuffed and detained.

The operation, carried out hastily and without the knowledge of even the governor of the province, was in fact the first time that members of the Turkish army intervened in an operation of the Turkish secret services; Later an investigation would reveal that it had been organised by members of the judiciary and the army related to FETÖ who thus tried to discredit the Turkish government, as confirmed by a sentence issued in 2019, in order to prepare the ground for the coup.

As a result of those events, the Turkish journalist Can Dündar together with Erdem Gül – former head of the Cumhuriyet newspaper in Ankara – was arrested for publishing a report in 2015 signed by Dündar himself with the images of the truck, despite the express prohibition of the authorities.

In 2016 both were sentenced to 5 years in prison for espionage, but after a complicated legal process and several appeals in which they did not enter prison, in 2018 an international arrest warrant was issued against Can Dündar after he failed to appear before justice, while the case against Gül – later elected mayor – was finally dismissed.