Two Turkish journalists charged with aiding terrorist group

Two Turkish journalists accused of espionage, aiding terrorist organisation have been arrested

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

A picture released by Turkey's Cumhuriyet newspaper shows Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Can Dundar (C) speaking to the press before attending a hearing in Istanbul on November 26, 2015.

The editor-in-chief of Turkey's Cumhuriyet newspaper, Can Dundar, and its Ankara bureau chief, Erdem Gul, were arrested late on Thursday on charges of espionage and aiding a terror organisation.

Istanbul’s 7th Penal Court of Peace ordered the investigation into the accusations against the two journalists and ordered them to be imprisoned until the trial.

Dundar and Gul were referred to the court by Istanbul prosecutor Irfan Fidan earlier on Thursday, who interrogated both of them for two hours.

Turkish media reported that they are facing a number of charges, including being members of an armed terrorist organisation and the publishing material in violation of state security.

The newspaper where the two journalists work published photographs and video footage that purported to show trucks belonging to the Turkish Intelligence Service MIT allegedly helping to send weapons to Syria.

The photographs published by the newspaper showed several vehicles loaded with weapons and ammunition, stacked under cardboard boxes which contained medication. In one photograph, the serial numbers of the weapons could be seen.

"As you know, an investigation has been launched into our reports on intelligence agency MIT trucks carrying weapons. The plaintiff is President [Recep Tayyip Erdogan] himself. We came here to defend journalism. We came here to defend people's right to be informed, their right to learn the truth if the government is lying. We came here to corroborate that governments should never commit illegal acts. We came here to defend this stance," Dundar told reporters before entering the courthouse.

A handout picture released by Turkey's Cumhuriyet newspaper shows Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Can Dundar (R) being escorted by anti-terror police officers inside a civil car to Silivri Prison after appearing in court in Istanbul on November 26, 2015 (AFP)

"If the country is under a certain threat or in danger, a journalist has to report it. If we go back in time, we had attacks in Suruc and Ankara. These reports are also related [with those attacks]. If the country is in danger, if the people are in danger, a journalist has to write about it," the newspaper's Ankara representative Erdem Gul said.

In January 2014, several trucks were stopped by local gendarmerie in the southern Adana and Hatay provinces alleging that they were carrying ammunition and weapons, although such a search is forbidden according to national security law. After the incident, 26 soldiers involved with the illegal search were arrested.

At the time of the incident, Turkey’s Interior Ministry stated that the trucks were carrying humanitarian aid to the Turkmen community in the war-torn country.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also said that the trucks which were stopped belonged to MIT and were taking aid to ethnic Turkmens in Syria, adding that prosecutors had no authority to search MIT trucks and they were part of a "parallel state" run by Fethullah Gulen who is a US based preacher of Turkish origin and leader of a "Gulenist Terrorist Organization" (FETO).

TRTWorld and agencies