Turkey sentences journalist, mayor Erdem Gül to five years in prison in Syria-bound intel trucks case

A Turkish court sentenced Erdem Gül, journalist and mayor of Istanbul’s Adalar District Municipality, to five years in prison for "knowingly and willingly aiding a terrorist organization,” in the Syria-bound intel trucks case.

Erdem Gül (center with blue shirt) makes a statement in front of the courthouse after the verdict.

Duvar English

The Istanbul 14th Heavy Penal Court  on Feb. 28 sentenced Erdem Gül, mayor of Adalar district municipality and former daily Cumhuriyet journalist, to five years in prison over a 2014 report on Turkish Intelligence Organization (MİT) trucks filled with weapons bound for Syria.

In the previous hearing, the prosecutor had demanded Gül to be sentenced to one year and eight months to three years and four months on the charge of "knowingly and willingly aiding a terrorist organization without being a member of its hierarchy.”

In his defense against the prosecutor’s final opinion in the final hearing, Gül said, "I do not accept the accusations because journalism is not a crime."

The court sentenced Gül to five years in prison for “knowingly and willingly aiding an armed terrorist organization.”

Speaking to reporters in front of the courtroom after the verdict, Gül said, "There is only one news item in the case (considered) as an action regarded as crime. This sentence is a direct punishment for news reporting."

What happened?

The special report Can Dündar, the former editor-in-chief of daily Cumhuriyet, stated that Turkey was sending weapons to Syrian jihadists and provided footage of the trucks being searched by security forces in the southern province of Adana. 

Following the report, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Dündar would “pay a heavy price" and filed a complaint against him and the daily's Ankara bureau chief Gül.

Dündar and Gül were arrested in 2015 and spent three months in pre-trial detention. In 2016, a court convicted them to five to six years in prison for “obtaining and revealing secret documents to be used for espionage.”

The Court of Cassation, Turkey's top court of appeals, in 2018 overturned the sentences and ordered a retrial with harsher sentences. The retrial began in 2019.

Can Dündar has been living in Germany since 2016 and was tried in absentia. Gül's file was separated after the Court of Cassation’s re-trial verdict.