Turkish journalist Can Dundar has been sentenced in absentia to 27 years and six months in prison for espionage and aiding an armed organisation, according to his lawyers.
Dundar, the former editor-in-chief of Turkish daily newspaper Cumhuriyet, was sentenced in 2016 to five years in prison for publishing a video purporting to show Turkish intelligence trucking weapons into Syria.
Refusing to attend the final hearing yetserday, Dundar's lawyer published a statement saying:
"We do not want to be part of a practice to legitimise a previously decided, political verdict."
Speaking with DW from Germany where he currently lives, Dundar said he wasn't surprised by the verdict: "They wanted to punish me because of this true story and at the same time try to intimidate other journalists in Turkey who dare touch that kind of sensitive issue."
"There's no hope for the appeal courts," he said. "But we will go to the European Court of Human Rights, and I hope that they will certify that this is not an act of terrorism but an act of journalism." he continued.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas criticised the ruling as a "hard blow against independent journalistic work in Turkey", which he called a fundamental right, DW reported.
On the other hand, Fahrettin Altun, the Turkish presidency's communications director, said on Twitter Dundar's sentence does not violate freedom of expression.
Can Dündar was convicted on charges of espionage and assisting a terrorist organization. To call him a journalist —and his sentence, a blow to free speech— is an insult to real journalists everywhere.Instead of endorsing his crimes, our counterparts should extradite him to Turkey
— Fahrettin Altun (@fahrettinaltun) December 23, 2020
According to Turkey, Dundar was among a group of defendants accused of aiding the Gülenist Terror Group and military and political espionage in the case.