15:05 May. 7, 2016
Prior to court session one of the accused was targeted by armed assailant
A Turkish court sentenced two opposition journalists for 5 years and 10 months in prison. Can Dundar and Erdem Gul were charged with releasing state secrets.
They published information about covert weapons shipment to the Syrian rebels by Turkish spy agencies, according to the New York Times.
After this information was revealed, country's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan filed a lawsuit against the journalists. He claimed trucks were carrying aid, not weapons, to members of the Turkmen ethnic community. In his public statement Erdogan said "the journalists would pay a heavy price."
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The verdict was announced just hours after one of the accused narrowly escaped an attack by a gunman in front of the courthouse. The assailant, 40-year-old Murat Sahin, tried to shoot Can Dundar after shouting "traitor." Dundar wasn't wounded, but another reporter covering the trial was harmed and delivered to a hospital. The shooter was detained by police.
"We have experienced two assassination attempts: one was done with a gun, the other was judicial. This was done to all of us, to scare us into silence, to make us stop talking," Dundar said after the court session.
It was stated the journalists would also undergo another trial for "trying to topple the government." They were accused of working for a terror organisation which allegedly plotted a coup in Turkey.
This sentence followed a series of arrests of Turkish correspondents. According to a report by country's Independent Communication Network for the first quarter of 2016, 174 press members were either fired or forced to resign, while 28 journalists and 10 publishers were under arrest.
Freedom House 2016 report placed Turkey on a list of countries with deteriorating freedom of speech. The U.S. officials, in turn, said Ankara was moving in the wrong direction regarding press freedom.