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Court orders closed trial for opposition politician facing life sentence on espionage charges

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An Ankara court has decided to hold a trial closed to the press and the public in the case of defense analyst and Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) politician Metin Gürcan, who is accused of political and military espionage, local media reported on Wednesday.

Gürcan, a former member of the Turkish military, was one of the co-founders of the DEVA Party led by Ali Babacan, a former deputy prime minister from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

He was detained in a police raid on his house in İstanbul on Nov. 26 and was arrested pending trial on Nov. 29.

The Ankara 26th High Criminal Court, which in February accepted an indictment seeking a life sentence and an additional 35 years for Gürcan, on Wednesday decided on the first hearing of the trial to have the hearings closed to the public since some of the accusations faced by the opposition politician involve state secrets.

Following the court’s decision, press members and other spectators left the courtroom, local media reports said.

Gürcan is accused of disclosing confidential information related to the state’s “security and political interests” and “acquiring confidential information of the state for political and military espionage” under Article 328 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).

Gürcan disclosed state secrets to foreign officials, according to the indictment drafted by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, which included photos and records of the technical and physical surveillance of the politician from his meetings and discussions with the foreign officials.

According to Gürcan’s testimony in the indictment, he denied the espionage charges, saying he began to write military and geostrategic analyses following his retirement from the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) for foreign publications based on publicly available sources.

The politician said he worked at the TSK for years after his retirement and has been offering consultancy services to various people and institutions since 2009.

Gürcan said he regularly met with foreign diplomats in Ankara and wrote analyses for them in return for payment.

Before his arrest, Gürcan criticized the government’s agreements with the United Arab Emirates, arguing that Turkey would be forced to make concessions in return for investment pledged by the UAE.

During a visit to Ankara by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed in November, the UAE announced a $10 billion fund for investments in Turkey.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also paid a two-day visit to the UAE in February to revive relations that were long strained by regional disputes, marking his first trip to the oil-rich Gulf country in nearly a decade. Erdoğan and Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the UAE’s de facto ruler, oversaw the signing of 13 cooperation agreements and memorandums of understanding, including a letter of intent on cooperation in the defense industry, during Erdoğan’s visit.

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