Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Prosecutors will seek to put two prominent journalists in prison for life for a story alleging the government shipped weapons to Islamist fighters in Syria. The case highlights the terrible state of media in Turkey.
Can Dundar (pictured, right) , the editor-in-chief of the main opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet, and Erdem Gul, the paper's Ankara representative, could face life in prison for publishing pictures of an alleged arms shipment to extremist Syrian rebels.
Cumhuriyet reported Wednesday that the prosecutors accuse the pair of revealing state secrets for espionage purposes, of attempting to overthrow the government and of aiding a terrorist organization.
The May report implicated President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the head of the country's MIT intelligence agency, Hakan Fidan, in covering up Turkey's role in the Syrian conflict after a truck carrying weapons was stopped by gendarmerie near the border in January 2014.
The truck was ultimately allowed to proceed after MIT intervened.
Cumhuriyet's later report on the truck incident created a political firestorm at a time the Turkish government had been accused of backing rebels in Syria and not doing enough to prevent fighters and supplies reaching groups like the "Islamic State."
The Turkish government denies sending weapons to rebels and says only humanitarian shipments are trucked into Syria.
Following the publication of the report, Erdogan said on live television he would make the two journalists pay a heavy price. They were arrested in November and placed in a prison outside Istanbul. Erdogan and Fidan are reportedly named as plaintiffs in the indictment.
Analysts believe the weapons shipment was likely meant for Turkey's preferred Islamist group, Ahrar al-Sham, and Turkmen rebels.
Turkey has witnessed a steady deterioration of press freedom under Erdogan's rule.