A high criminal court in İstanbul has rejected a demand for the recusal of the panel of judges by lawyers for journalist Can Dündar, who was sentenced to five years, 10 months in prison in a trial concerning a news report on National Intelligence Organization (MİT) trucks transporting arms to rebels in Syria.
The demand for recusal will be reviewed by the İstanbul 15th High Criminal Court, a higher court, provided that the journalist’s lawyers submit their demand in writing within a week, Turkish media reports said.
The proceedings were adjourned until December 23.
On May 29, 2015 Cumhuriyet daily journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül published a report on MİT trucks stopped by gendarmes, headlined “Here are the weapons Erdoğan said don’t exist,” in reference to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The story sparked a political firestorm in Turkey about the role of the Turkish spy agency in arming rebel factions in Syria and prompted an investigation into the journalists.
Former Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Dündar and former Ankara Representative Gül were arrested on November 26, 2015 on charges of “obtaining and disclosing the confidential information of the state for purposes of political or military espionage” and “knowingly and willingly aiding an armed terrorist organization as non-members.”
They were released a day after a Constitutional Court ruling of “rights violation” on February 25, 2016.
Accepting the indictment issued by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, the İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court sentenced Dündar to five years, 10 months in prison on the charge of “disclosing the confidential information of the state.”
The Supreme Court of Appeals overturned Dündar’s sentence on March 9, 2018. In light of the reversal, a new trial started in April at the İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court.
In a ruling dated October 7, the court confiscated the property of Dündar, who is living abroad, and declared him a “fugitive.” His attorneys’ appeal against the ruling was rejected by a higher court on October 21.