Turkey prosecutors seek life terms for two anti-Erdogan journalists

ISTANBUL: Turkish prosecutors demanded life sentences for two top journalists from the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper on charges of revealing state secrets with a report that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government tried to ship arms to militants in Syria, a report said Wednesday.

Prosecutors asked the Istanbul court to sentence editor-in-chief Can Dundar and Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul each to one aggravated life sentence, one ordinary life sentence and 30 years in jail, the Dogan news agency reported, quoting the indictment.

The report said that both Erdogan and his hugely powerful but low-profile ally, the head of the National Intelligence Organisation (MIT) Hakan Fidan, are named as plaintiffs in the indictment.

Dundar and Gul were both placed under arrest in late November over the report earlier in the year that claimed to show proof that a consignment of weapons seized at the border in January 2014 was bound for militants rebels in Syria.

Since then, they have both been held in the Silivri jail on the outskirts of Istanbul ahead of their trial, whose date has still yet to be announced.

In the indictment, they have been formally charged with obtaining and revealing state secrets “for espionage purposes” and seeking to “violently” overthrow the Turkish government as well as aiding an “armed terrorist organisation”, it said.

The penalties demanded by the prosecutors are significantly higher than had previously been expected.

The case has amplified concerns about press freedom under the rule of Erdogan, who had personally warned Dundar he would “pay a price” over the front-page story.

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