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Turkey Arrests Journalists Who Accused Spy Agency of Sending Arms to Syria

Two prominent Turkish opposition journalists were arrested Thursday on espionage charges, after they published video that purported to show the state intelligence agency helping send weapons to Syria.
Photo by Vedat Arik/AP

Two prominent Turkish opposition journalists were arrested Thursday on espionage charges, local media reported, after they published footage that purported to show the state intelligence agency helping send weapons to Syria.

A Turkish court ordered the arrest of the editor-in-chief of the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper, Can Dundar, and Ankara correspondent Erdem Gul, accusing them of spying and supporting a terror organization, the state-owned Anadolu Agency said. The two are now being held in pre-trial detention.


"We are accused of 'spying.' The president said [our action is] 'treason,'" Dundar told prosecutors on Thursday, according to Hurriyet Daily News. "We are not traitors, spies, or heroes; we are journalists. What we have done here was a journalistic activity."

Footage released by Cumhuriyet last May purportedly showed showed security forces opening crates on the back of trucks which contained what the newspaper said were weapons and ammunition sent to Syria by the Turkish intelligence agency MIT in January 2014.

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan filed an individual criminal complaint against Dundar and Cumhuriyet in June, local media said at the time, claiming that the story "included some footage and information that are not factual" and the person "who wrote the story will pay a heavy price."

MIT, meanwhile, insisted the trucks had been carrying humanitarian aid rather than arms.

According to earlier media reports, the two had faced a number of charges including membership of an armed terrorist organization and the publishing of material in violation of state security following the release of the footage.

Dundar and Gul are not the only journalists in Turkey in jail on terrorism charges. It is four months today since VICE News journalist Mohammed Ismael Rasool was detained alongside colleagues Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury and charged with working for a terrorist organization — an entirely baseless and absurd accusation.


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Hanrahan and Pendlebury were released a week later but Rasool remains in captivity. International human rights and press freedom organizations have called for his release.

The pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples' Democratic Party has condemned the recent arrests of Dundar and Gul "in the strongest possible terms," in a statement signed by co-chairs Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, which went on to accuse the Turkish government of backing extremist groups in Syria including the Islamic State (IS).

"Those who, for years, have been extending material and moral aid, weapons and logistical support to al Qaeda derivative organizations like al Nusra, ISIL [an alternative name for IS] and Ahrar al Sham are trying to prevent discussion of what they have been doing. They will not, in the end, be able to avoid facing an independent justice system, in both national and international courts of justice."

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