Court renders judgment in the absence of Dündar’s lawyers, who refused to attend the hearing citing the lack of impartiality of the judges
Exiled journalist Can Dündar was given a combined prison sentence of 27 years and 6 months on two charges on 23 December 2020 at the final hearing of his retrial in the “MİT trucks case.” The former editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet daily was on trial over the newspaper’s May 2015 coverage of allegations that Turkey sent weapons to insurgents in Syria on trucks operated by the National Intelligence Agency (MİT).
The Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court sentenced Dündar to 18 years and 9 months on the charge of “obtaining information that must be kept confidential for reasons relating to the security or domestic or foreign political interests of the State, for the purpose of political or military espionage” under Article 328 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) and 7 years and 21 months on the charge of “knowingly and willingly aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” (TCK 220/7).
Dündar was acquitted of “disclosing information that must be kept confidential for reasons relating to the security or domestic or foreign political interests of the State.”
The court ruled for Dündar’s imprisonment and to keep the arrest warrant and the Interpol red notice against him in place. The court also decided to issue a requisition for Dündar’s extradition from Germany.
This was the 13th hearing in the retrial. The court rendered its judgment in the absence of Dündar’s lawyers, who filed a petition with the court the day before the hearing, saying they would not be attending the hearing in protest of the court panel’s lack of impartiality and the lack of a fair trial.
During the previous hearing, Dündar’s lawyers asked the judges to recuse themselves from the case on the grounds of lack of independence and impartiality. The court panel rejected the request.
At the end of the original trial, on 6 May 2016, the court had sentenced Dündar to 5 years and 10 months on the charge of “disclosing classified documents related to the security of the state” and dismissed the “espionage” charge on the grounds that the prosecution could not prove that the defendants had “connections with a foreign nation or a terrorist organization.”
In March 2018, the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals reversed Dündar’s conviction, saying Dündar should have been charged with “espionage.” The retrial began on 7 May 2018. In the meantime, Turkish authorities applied to Germany, seeking Dündar’s extradition to Turkey. In an interim ruling on 7 October 2020, the trial court declared Dündar a “fugitive” and ordered the permanent seizure of his assets, citing his failure to appear in court for the retrial.