Turkish journalists protest the arrest of their colleagues Can Dündar and Erdem Gül
Turkish journalists protest the arrest of their colleagues Can Dündar and Erdem Gül, in Ankara, November 27, 2015 (AP/Burhan Ozbilici).

Jailed Turkish journalists face multiple life sentences

January 27, 2016 4:02 PM ET

New York, January 27, 2016 -- Turkish prosecutors should immediately drop all charges against Can Dündar and Erdem Gül, journalists at the daily newspaper Cumhuriyet, and release them without delay, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Istanbul Deputy Chief Prosecutor İrfan Fidan today asked an Istanbul court to sentence Dündar, Cumhuriyet's editor, and Gül, the paper's Ankara bureau chief, to life in prison, life without parole, and an additional 30 years in prison on charges of accessing and exposing state secrets and aiding a terrorist group, according to CPJ's review of the indictment. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Turkish intelligence agency are listed as the complainants in the indictment. The journalists have been jailed since November.

"Politically motivated prosecutions of journalists are again on the rise in Turkey," CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney. "Threatening journalists with life in prison is calculated to further intimidate reporters into self-censorship. President Erdogan seems intent on controlling the narrative of Turkey's handling of fighting in Syria and the Kurdish southeast by any means."

Cumhuriyet in May 2015 published photographs ostensibly showing Turkish trucks carrying weapons to Syrian rebels in January 2014. Turkish officials accuse local security officers loyal to Fethullah Gülen, a preacher who lives in self-imposed exile in the United States, of stopping and searching the trucks in an effort to bring down the government, according to press reports. The Turkish government designates Gülen's followers as a terrorist group. The charges of aiding a terrorist group stem from this designation.

Dündar and Gül remain in pretrial detention at Silivri Prison, outside Istanbul. Turkish authorities on January 22 denied permission for a coalition of international press freedom groups, including CPJ, to visit Dündar and Gül in jail. Representatives of those groups staged a vigil outside the prison today to express their solidarity with the journalists.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This alert has been modified to reflect that the court is based in Istanbul.

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