Turkish journalist Can Dundar was sentenced in absentia to 27 years and six months in prison for espionage and aiding an armed terrorist organisation, his lawyers said on Wednesday, calling the verdict politically motivated.
Dundar, the former editor-in-chief of Turkish daily newspaper Cumhuriyet, and a colleague, Erdem Gul, were both sentenced in 2016 to five years in prison for publishing a video purporting to show Turkish intelligence trucking weapons into Syria. They were later released pending appeal.
Now a resident of Germany, he had faced up to 35 years in jail for allegedly supporting terrorism and military or political espionage.
Dundar’s lawyers refused to attend the final hearing. “We do not want to be part of a practice to legitimize a previously decided, political verdict,” they said in a written statement ahead of the hearing.
For critics of President Tayyip Erdogan, the journalist has become a symbol of what they say is Turkey’s sweeping crackdown on press freedom, especially since a failed coup in 2016. The government says the courts are independent and that it is responding to threats facing the country.
The court earlier this month delayed its verdict after Dundar’s lawyers asked for the judges to be replaced to ensure a fair trial. The court rejected the request.
An Istanbul court had declared Dundar a fugitive and seized all his assets in Turkey.