Expression Interrupted

Journalists and academics bear the brunt of the massive crackdown on freedom of expression in Turkey. Scores of them are currently subject to criminal investigations or behind bars. This website is dedicated to tracking the legal process against them.

Erdem Gül

Erdem Gül

Erdem Gül, the former Ankara Bureau Chief of Cumhuriyet newspaper, was imprisoned pending trial on 26 November 2015 along with the newspaper's former Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar over the newspaper's coverage of alleged illegal weapons transfer to Syria on trucks operated by the National Intelligence Agency (MİT) in 2014.

Both journalists were arrested on charges of “acquiring documents related to state security,” “political and military espionage,” “disclosing classified documents” and “terrorism propaganda.” Some 92 days into his imprisonment, on 25 February 2016, Gül was released based on a Constitutional Court judgment, which held that Gül and Dündar's imprisonment violated their rights to liberty and security and freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

At the final hearing of the "MİT trucks case" held on 6 May 2016, Gül was given a prison sentence of 5 years on the charge of “acquiring and disclosing classified documents related to state security.” The court acquitted both Gül and Dündar of the charge of “attempting to overthrow the government.” The court separated the charge of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member.” The court also dismissed the "military espionage" charge, saying it was unable to establish any connection to an agreement with a foreign nation or a terrorist organization.

Gül remained free pending the outcome of appeal.

The indictment against Dündar, Gül and main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker and former journalist Enis Berberoğlu, who had allegedly provided footage of the trucks intercepted near the border with Syria, charged all three with “knowingly aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” and an additional lifetime imprisonment sentence for Berberoğlu on the charge of “disclosing classified documents for political or military espionage purposes.”

On 24 May 2017, the seventh hearing in the trial was held by the Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court. The court adjourned the trial until June 14. At the end of the hearing on June 14, the court ruled to sentence Berberoğlu to life imprisonment, reduced to 25 years in jail, and immediately ordered his arrest, while deciding to separate the charge of “knowingly aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” from the file.

In early March 2018, the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals reversed the 14th High Criminal Court's 6 May 2016 judgment concerning Dündar and Gül in the “MIT trucks case.” The Chamber held that Gül “should have been acquitted of the unprovable charge due to a lack of sufficient, substantial and convincing evidence that he had joined Dündar in committing the offense.”

The retrial of Gül and Dündar began on 7 May 2018. In its interim ruling at the end of the closed hearing, the court ruled to separate the file against Gül. The second hearing in the retrial of Gül was held on 16 July 2018. The Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court acquitted Gül.

Case on "aiding a terrorist organization" charge dismissed

The final hearing of Gül and Berberoğlu in the “MIT trucks case” was held on 15 May 2019 at the Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court. Gül and Berberoğlu were in attendance with their lawyers. During the first half of the hearing, which was closed to the public, the court heard the final defense statements. Following a recess, the audience and the press were allowed to enter the courtroom for the announcement of the judgment.

In its judgment regarding Gül, the court ruled that the type of offense had been amended and a new charge of “violating the confidentiality of an investigation” arose, but since the four-month statute of limitations for pressing charges as per Article 26/1 of Turkey’s press law had expired, the court ruled to dismiss the case.

Concerning Berberoğlu’s file, the court ruled that there was no need to render a separate judgment on the charge of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” on the grounds of Berberoğlu’s previous sentence over the same news report on the charge of “disclosing confidential information relating to the security of the state,” which was already upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeals.

 

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