Can Dündar, a well-known journalist and the former editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet daily, was jailed on 26 November 2015 along with the newspaper’s Ankara representative Erdem Gül in connection with a news report on alleged transfer of weapons to insurgents in Syria on trucks operated by the National Intelligence Organization (MİT).
The two journalists were arrested for "acquiring documents related to the security of the state," "political and military espionage," "disclosing classified documents" and "spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization."
Released based on Constitutional Court judgment
Ninety-two days into their imprisonment, on 25 February 2016, Dündar and Gül were released based on a Constitutional Court judgment, which held that their detention violated their rights to liberty and security and freedom of expression and freedom of press.
At the final hearing of their trial, on 6 May 2016, Dündar was handed down a prison sentence of 5 years and 10 months for "obtaining and disclosing classified documents related to the security of the state." The court acquitted both Gül and Dündar of "attempting to overthrow the government" charge. The court separated the accusation "aiding FETÖ/PDY without being its member" and dismissed the "espionage" charge, saying no connections with a foreign nation or a terrorist organization could be established.
During a recess on the day of the hearing, an armed man shot at Dündar outside the Istanbul Courthouse. Dündar escaped the assault without injury.
On 21 September 2016, the case against Dündar and Gül on the charge of "aiding a terrorist organization without being its member" was merged with another file against main opposition CHP lawmaker Enis Berberoğlu, a former journalist, who allegedly gave the MİT trucks footage to Dündar. Submitting their final opinion on 11 January 2017, the prosecution requested the court to convict all three defendants of "aiding a terrrorist organization without being its member." The prosecution additionally sought aggravated life imprisonment for Berberoğlu on the charge of "disclosing confidential information for espionage."
On 14 June 2017, the Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court sentenced Berberoğlu to aggravated life imprisonment for "espionage." The sentence was reduced to 25 years. The court also ruled for his immediate arrest on the grounds of "flight risk." The "aiding a terrorist organization" charge against all three was separated.
Trial on "aiding a terrorist organization" charge
During the second hearing of this file, held on 20 December 2017 at the Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court, the prosecutor demanded up to 15 years in prison for Dündar, Gül and Berberoğlu.
At the fourth hearing held on 16 February 2018, the court ruled to merge an indictment against Dündar on the charge of "obtaining and disclosing classified documents related to state security for political and military espionage purposes" with the ongoing case. Dündar and Gül's lawyers asked the court to wait for the outcome of the appeal and the verdict in the "MİT trucks case" to become final.
The 9th hearing of this trial took place on 6 February 2019. Gül and Berberoğlu were in attendance with their lawyers. The court ruled to separate Dündar's file and adjourned the trial until 15 May 2019.
Supreme Court of Appeals judgment
In March 2018, the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals reversed Dündar and Gül's conviction for "obtaining and disclosing classified documents related to the security of the state” in the "MİT Trucks case." The Supreme Court of Appeals said Dündar should have been charged with "espionage" while Gül should have been acquitted and ordered a retrial.
Retrial of "MİT Trucks case"
The Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court started the retrial of Dündar and Gül in the "MİT Trucks case" on 7 May 2018. The court separated Gül’s file from this case. He was later acquitted.
In the meantime, Turkish authorities applied to Germany, seeking Dündar’s extradition to Turkey.
The third hearing in Dündar's retrial took place on 6 February 2019. The court ruled to wait for the outcome of the request filed with German authorities for Dündar's extradition and set 15 May 2019 as the date for the next hearing. The court also ruled to merge two other files against Dündar overseen by the same court with the ongoing case on the grounds of "legal and de facto connection."
On 7 October 2020, the court issued an interim ruling, declaring Dündar a "fugitive" and ordering the permanent seizure of his assets.
During the 11th hearing of the retrial, which took place on 14 October 2020, the prosecutor presented his final opinion, asking the court to convict Dündar 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” (TCK 328) and “knowingly and willingly aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” (TCK 220/7).
During the 12th hearing on 4 December 2020, Dündar's lawyers asked the court’s judges to recuse themselves from the case. The panel rejected the request and adjourned the trial until 23 December 2020 for Dündar's lawyers to appeal the decision with the next court of first instance.
Conviction in retrial
On 23 December 2020, Dündar was given a combined prison sentence of 27 years and 6 months on two charges in his retrial the “MİT trucks case.”
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.”
Dündar is also among defendants in the Cumhuriyet trial, facing up to 15 years in prison on the charge of "aiding a terrorist organization without being its member." On 30 October 2016, the court issued an arrest warrant for Dündar as part of this trial.
At the final hearing of the Cumhuriyet trial on 25 April 2018, the court ruled to separate the files of Dündar and İlhan Tanır, who both face arrest warrants as part of the case.
Özgür Gündem solidarity trial
On 22 December 2016, another arrest warrant was issued for Dündar in a case in which he faces up to 3 years in prison for "publishing statements by terrorist organizations" for participating in a solidarity campaign with the pro-Kurdish Özgür Gündem daily, which was later closed down under an emergency decree. Dündar was one of the scores of journalists who symbolically edited Özgür Gündem for a day in the summer of 2016 as part of the campaign.
The next hearing in this trial is set for 24 December 2020 at the Istanbul 22nd High Criminal Court.
"Gezi Park trial"
Dündar was also among 16 defendants accused of "attempting to overthrow the government" and facing aggravated life imprisonment in the Gezi Park indictment, issued in February 2019. The 657-page document alleged that the defendants attempted to set Turkey's 2013 Gezi Park protests into motion beginning in 2011; and "financed" and "orchestrated" the demonstrations.
Another arrest warrant has been issued for Dündar as part of this case.
At the final hearing of the Gezi Park trial on 18 February 2020, the Istanbul 30th High Criminal Court separated the file against Dündar and six other defendants who live abroad.
Their first hearing was held on 15 September 2020. Dündar is on trial alongside actors Memet Ali Alabora and Pınar Öğün, Open Society Foundation employee Gökçe Yılmaz, writer Handan Meltem Arıkan, Civil Society Development Center (STGM) coordinator Hanzade Hikmet Germiyanoğlu and NGO employee İnanç Ekmekçi. Rejecting the lawyers’ requests for the defense statements to be taken through letters rogatory, the court adjourned the trial until 14 January 2020.