On Friday, the Cumhuriyet journalists Can Dundar and Erdem Gul received prison sentences for "revealing state secrets." They believe that the court is under political pressure straight from the top.
Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Can Dundar and Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul are preparing to appeal the prison sentences they received on Friday for publishing reports on trucks of weapons being sent by Turkey's National Intelligence Organization to rebels in Syria. An earlier decision by the Constitutional Court had ordered the journalists released from prison pending trial.
"The handing down of sentences in spite of the Constitutional Court's ruling indicates that the court is under political pressure," the journalists' attorneys told DW. "The ensuing legal process will sooner or later end with Dundar and Gul being acquitted."
In a case in which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was a plaintiff, Dundar and Gul were convicted of "revealing state secrets" and sentenced to seven and six years in prison, respectively. The terms were subsequently reduced - to five years, 10 months for Dundar and six years for Gul. The pair were acquitted on charges of espionage and attempting to overthrow the government. In a pending separate trial, the journalists will be tried on charges of being members of a terrorist organization.
'A lengthy process'
In May 2015, Cumhuriyet printed the photos of weapons and ammunition being transported to Syria by the National Intelligence Organization in January 2014. The investigation into the journalists was launched in June. Dundar and Gul were arrested on November 27 and held for 92 days until they were freed by the Constitutional Court. "I neither obey nor respect the decision," Erdogan had said shortly after the ruling.
Now, defense attorney Tora Pekin believes that the Istanbul court was pressured and that Friday's ruling was made with politics in mind - not the law. "Otherwise, with respect to the Constitutional Court's decision, giving out prison sentences is impossible," Pekin said. He referenced statements made by Erdogan that Dundar would "pay a heavy price" for his reporting and that the president would "not let him go."
Arguing that the sentences blatantly violate the law, defense attorneys say they plan to take the matter to the Constitutional Court, where they assume the case will ultimately be resolved in their clients' favor.
"Given that there was a decision from the Constitutional Court ruling that there was no evidence supporting the arrests, the fact that prison sentences were given is not something that can be explained within the boundaries of the law," the defense attorney Ergin Cinmen said. "Of course we are appealing the ruling. We will take it to the Supreme Court of Appeals. We don't think there is a high chance, but if the Supreme Court of Appeals approves the ruling, we'll go to the Constitutional Court, which will act in accordance with its previous ruling as it is binding. A clear acquittal needs to be issued, but we've got a lengthy process in front of us."
Hours before the ruling, Dundar was unharmed in an assassination attempt outside the courthouse.
"Apart from the shooter, two people who are thought to have had knowledge of the attack beforehand have also been taken into custody," defense attorney Pekin said. "From our point of view, what is as grave as the attack itself is the fact that someone with a gun can wander all day around a courthouse building that is guarded by dozens of police. This indicates a flagrant security problem on the part of the state."