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Prosecutor demands prison sentence for former journalist in MİT trucks case

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A Turkish prosecutor has demanded three years in prison for former journalist Erdem Gül in a trial concerning a report on National Intelligence Organization (MİT) trucks allegedly transporting weapons to rebels in Syria in 2014.

Gül was the Ankara representative of the Cumhuriyet daily when the newspaper published a report on the trucks in May 2015 that caused a political firestorm in Turkey and led to the filing of criminal charges against the journalists and others involved in the publication of the story.

Enis Berberoğlu, who was the alleged source of the news report, and Gül faced charges of aiding and abetting a terrorist organization.

In the last hearing of the trial at the İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court, the prosecutor demanded a prison sentence of three years, four months for Gül on charges of aiding a terrorist organization.

According to the prosecutor, freedom of the press can be limited to prevent state secrets from being exposed.

“I won’t say a word, journalism is not a crime,” Gül told reporters following the hearing.

Gül is currently a district mayor in İstanbul from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

He is being retried since the Supreme Court of Appeals in April reversed a lower court decision that did not impose prison sentences on Gül and Berberoğlu, who was also a defendant in the trial.

The trial of Berberoğlu, also a former journalist and currently a member of parliament from the CHP, was halted after he acquired immunity following his election in May.

The court did not hand down any sentence to Berberoğlu when it concluded this trial in 2019 because he had already faced the same charges in another trial related to the MİT trucks and was given a lengthy sentence. Gül was not sentenced to prison, either, because the charges against him were not filed within the four-month period after the publication of the article as required by Turkey’s Press Law.

When the MİT trucks story first broke, it led to a debate about the role of the Turkish spy agency in arming rebel factions in Syria and prompted an investigation into Cumhuriyet daily journalists Can Dündar, who was the paper’s editor-in-chief at the time, and Gül, who published the report.

They were first jailed while facing trial on spy charges for publishing footage purporting to show MİT transporting weapons to Syria. Later, the two journalists were released pending trial.

Dündar left Turkey in 2016 and has been living in exile in Germany since then, while Gül took up politics.

When Dündar later published a book titled “We Are Arrested,” he mapped out the details of the news story on May 27, 2015, saying that a leftist lawmaker brought the information to him. Upon that revelation, the İstanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office launched a new investigation and examined Dündar’s phone calls during the days leading up to the publication of the story.

The prosecutor’s office detected a phone conversation between CHP deputy Berberoğlu and Dündar on May 27.

A new indictment was then drafted naming Berberoğlu, who was arrested in 2017. He was given a prison sentence of almost six years in prison on charges of revealing state secrets and was jailed for 15 months until his release in September 2018.

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