European diplomats criticized for supporting journalists on trial
ISTANBUL – Istanbul-based diplomats were criticized by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday over their appearance at the espionage trial of two Turkish journalists.
Can Dundar, editor-in-chief of the Cumhuriyet newspaper, and Erdem Gul, the paper’s Ankara bureau chief, are charged with espionage and revealing state secrets over a story accusing the government of attempting to deliver arms to Syria.
At the first day of their trial in Istanbul on Friday, a number of European diplomats, including the consul generals of Britain and France, Leigh Turner and Muriel Domenach, attended the hearing.
“There was a hearing yesterday of this known journalist,” Erdogan said during a business conference in Istanbul. “The status of people participating in this trial is very important.
“Consul generals in Istanbul attended this trial. Who are you and what business do you have there? This is not your country. You can move within your buildings and the borders of your consulate. Anything else is subject to permission.”
In January 2014, trucks belonging to Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) were stopped in separate incidents on the way to Syria. In May last year, Cumhuriyet published images purporting to show shells and ammunition on board the trucks.
Dundar and Gul, who were held in prison for three months in the run-up to the trial, face charges of espionage, attempting to overthrow the government and revealing state secrets.
The prosecution has asked that each defendant is sentenced to two life terms with an extra 30 years.
They were released from prison upon the Constitutional Court’s ruling that their rights such as free speech and press freedom had been violated. Following the court’s ruling, President Erdogan criticized the verdict, saying that the court had acted against the country’s interest.