News / Middle East

    Trial Adjourned for Turkish Journalists Targeted by Erdogan

    Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Can Dundar, center, arrives at the Justice Palace in Istanbul, Turkey, March 25, 2016.
    Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Can Dundar, center, arrives at the Justice Palace in Istanbul, Turkey, March 25, 2016.
    Dorian Jones

    A Turkish judge on Friday adjourned until April 1 the trial of two journalists facing charges of espionage and aiding a terrorist organization with their reports on alleged government arms smuggling to Syria.

    Cumhuriyet newspaper editor-in-chief Can Dundar and his Ankara bureau chief, Erdem Gul, face 30 years behind bars if found guilty. Their case has generated international interest as a test of press freedom and has provoked alarm among Turkey’s Western allies and human rights groups.

    Dundar and Gul were arrested in November after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan filed a personal complaint against them. The journalists were held in pretrial detention for three months. After Turkey's Constitutional Court ruled in February that their rights had been violated, they were released.

    In a controversial move, however, the lower criminal court that convened Friday in Istanbul continued with the case, and the judge ordered the trial to be held behind closed doors in response to a request by the prosecutor, who cited security concerns related to the case.

    The courthouse was packed with supporters of the two journalists as well as members of human rights groups and senior Western diplomats. When opposition lawyers and politicians refused to leave the court, the judge adjourned the trial.

    The journalists are accused of revealing state secrets by publishing images, dating to January 2014, of trucks bound for Syria. The newspaper said these proved Turkey was smuggling arms into Syria.

    Since then, Erdogan has acknowledged that the trucks — which were stopped by Turkish gendarmes and police officers en route to the Syrian border — belonged to the intelligence agency. Erdogan said they were carrying aid to Turkmens in Syria, fighting both Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Islamic State group.

    FILE - In this March 15, 2014, file photo, Turkish Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen is pictured at his residence in Saylorsburg, Pa. Gulen is charged in Turkey with plotting to overthrow the government in a case his supporters call politically motivated.
    FILE - In this March 15, 2014, file photo, Turkish Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen is pictured at his residence in Saylorsburg, Pa. Gulen is charged in Turkey with plotting to overthrow the government in a case his supporters call politically motivated.

    Turkey also has alleged that the reporters aided an Islamic movement headed by U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, an opponent of Erdogan.

    Embarrassment to president

    Kadri Gursel of the Al Monitor website said the reports by Dundar and Gul  embarrassed the president and his government, especially the release of police video showing the interception of the alleged arms shipment.

    "The news story is a story which reveals the hidden face or illegitimate face of Turkey’s Syria policy," Gursel said. "We know that Erdogan has made this case a personal vendetta for him and wants them to be put in jail."

    As he entered the courthouse Friday, Dundar told reporters that in prosecuting the case, the government was trying to create a mechanism of self-censorship. But he said he and his colleague had done nothing wrong in reporting the facts.

    “We defended [the journalism], and we got arrested, you know,” Dundar said.

    Emma Sinclair Webb, a senior Turkey researcher for U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, called the case "one of the most flawed prosecutions we’ve seen in recent years. It shows that the judiciary is on its knees. There is no such thing as a fair trial. There is no such thing as a fair process. And the decision to hold the whole trial in secret — it means the public will not be allowed to scrutinize the judicial process and what happens in the court and how the evidence is discussed. The press won't be able to write about it."

    Thousands of people gather in solidarity outside Zaman newspaper in Istanbul, after a local court ordered that Turkey's largest-circulation, opposition newspaper be placed under the management of trustees, March 4, 2016.
    Thousands of people gather in solidarity outside Zaman newspaper in Istanbul, after a local court ordered that Turkey's largest-circulation, opposition newspaper be placed under the management of trustees, March 4, 2016.

    Turkey has a poor human rights record and a history of pressing charges linked to the content of journalists' reports. In the last few months, several newspapers and television stations critical of the government have been seized by courts, while journalists are facing growing prosecutions under legislation that forbids insulting the president.

    You May Like

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora