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Court takes Turkish journalists’ trial behind closed doors

Court takes Turkish journalists’ trial behind closed doors

ISTANBUL: A Turkish court took the trial of two prominent journalists char­ged with espionage behind closed doors on Friday and accepted President Tayyip Erdogan as a complainant, in a case which has drawn international condemnation.

Can Dundar, editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet, and Erdem Gul, 49, the newspaper’s Ankara bureau chief, stand accused of trying to topple the government with the publication last May of video purporting to show Turkey’s state intelligence agency helping to truck weapons to Syria in 2014.

Erdogan, who has cast the newspaper’s coverage as part of an attempt to undermine Turkey’s global standing, has vowed Dundar will “pay a heavy price”. The two journalists could face life in prison if convicted.

Anti-government chants rang out as the decision to take their trial behind closed doors was announced in the Istanbul courtroom, packed with journalists, opposition politicians, human rights activists and diplomats from several nations.

“We will try you in stadiums,” shouted some of the protesters. “You will get lost in the depths of that palace” said others, in reference to Erdogan’s vast new palace complex in Ankara, as security guards ushered them out.

The trial was later adjourned to April 1 after opposition lawmakers refused to leave, two of the lawmakers said.

The prosecutor argued for a confidential trial because “some evidence involved state secrets”. Lawyers for the journalists argued that evidence could be read in closed session while the rest of the trial should remain open.

Erdogan has acknowledged that the trucks, which were stopped by gendarmerie and police officers en route to the Syrian border, belonged to the MIT intelligence agency and said they were carrying aid to Turkmens in Syria.
Turkmen fighters are battling both President Bashar al-Assad and the militant Islamic State group.

Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2016

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