Turkish journalist gets 27 years in absentia for espionage
Published: Dec 24, 2020 07:13 PM
Turkish journalist Can Dundar was sentenced in absentia to 27 years and six months in prison for espionage and aiding an armed terrorist organization, his lawyers said on Wednesday, calling the verdict politically motivated.

Can Dundar, Turkish journalist and former chief editor of the Turkish daily newspaper Cumhuriyet addresses a press conference with German and Turkish intellectuals to comment on peace in the Mediterranean region and solidarity with democrats in Turkey, on October 6 in Berlin, Germany. Photo: AFP

Dundar, former editor-in-chief of Turkish daily newspaper Cumhuriyet, and a colleague, Erdem Gul, were both sentenced in 2016 to five years in prison for publishing a video purporting to show Turkish intelligence trucking weapons into Syria. They were later released pending appeal.

Now a resident of Germany, he had faced up to 35 years in jail for allegedly supporting terrorism and military or political espionage.

Dundar's lawyers refused to attend the final hearing. "We do not want to be part of a practice to legitimize a previously decided, political verdict," they said in a written statement ahead of the hearing.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas criticized the ruling as a "hard blow against independent journalistic work in Turkey" which he called a fundamental right.

"Journalism is not a crime but an indispensable service to society - even and especially when it looks critically... on the fingers of those in power," Maas told RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland.

Fahrettin Altun, the Turkish presidency's communications director, said on Twitter Dundar's sentence does not violate freedom of expression. Writing in German, he said Turkey expects its partners to accept the decision and extradite him.

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