Can Dündar threatens Turkey's government while friends assault journalists

Published 01.04.2016 15:29
Updated 01.04.2016 17:36

On Friday in Istanbul, the second hearing opened of the espionage trial of Can Dündar and Erdem Gül, two employees of Cumhuriyet newspaper, where Dündar made threats against the government while his friends assaulted a female journalist in the courthouse.

Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Dündar and the newspaper's Ankara representative Erdem Gül are accused of espionage and abetting the Gülenist Terror Organization (FETÖ), aiding in the publishing of confidential information regarding Turkey's intelligence service.

The duo was released on March 9 after the Constitutional Court issued a controversial ruling, which stated that the arrests of Dündar and Gül violated their constitutional rights to expression.

The two men were responsible for a news story published by Cumhuriyet last year regarding a raid against trucks belonging to the National Intelligence Directorate (MİT). The raid was deemed unlawful by judicial authorities and prosecutors, and soldiers and others involved in the raid in southern Turkey currently face trial. The Gülen Movement and affiliates are accused of masterminding the raid, which disclosed a secret MİT operation.

As Dündar headed to a packed courthouse with supporters, he openly threatened the government. Dündar said he was simply "a witness" to the MİT operations and that the president, prime minister and other senior officials would be "soon in the dock where I am currently standing."

The second hearing was closed to the press due to the sensitivity of the case where defendants face life imprisonment for espionage, but a large crowd of supporters streamed into the courthouse in Istanbul.

Journalists from Sabah, Daily Sabah's sister publication, were among media crews covering the trial, but their presence apparently incurred the wrath of Dündar's colleagues from Cumhuriyet. Sabah is one of the few publications in Turkey focusing on the espionage aspect of the trial, while many local media outlets as well as foreign media claim the case is simply a matter of press freedom. Dilek Yaman, a reporter for Sabah, said Murat Sabuncu, a journalist from Cumhuriyet, punched her in the halls of the courtroom when she and another journalist from Sabah asked Dündar questions about the case. Yaman sustained an injury on her shoulder. Nazif Karaman, a fellow Sabah journalist who was covering the trial with Yaman, said an argument erupted when they tried to ask Dündar questions regarding lawsuits he filed against other journalists for media reports about Dündar's wrongdoings.

Karaman said: "He said we were not journalists but 'assassins.' I repeated the question, and this was when people around him started shoving us. We then went to the courtroom and while we were standing outside, a few people approached and started insulting us. They threatened us. Dilek Yaman told them we were just doing our job as journalists. Suddenly, Murat Sabuncu came at us and shouted 'Shut up!' before he swung a punch. It landed on Dilek. We left after they continued insulting and threatening us."

The Media Association, a leading media nongovernmental organization (NGO), condemned the assault on journalists that was captured on camera. The NGO said that along with Yaman and Karaman, a journalist for Star daily, Kemal Gümüş, was the victim of verbal assaults.

The statement by Media Association read: "Can Dündar answered journalists' questions in a way contravening journalistic values and openly targeted journalists. The crowd accompanying him tried to block journalists and resorted to verbal and physical assault. Dilek Yaman was punched by Murat Sabuncu, and this attack is a testament to how Dündar and his companions perceive press freedom and journalism, as they couldn't tolerate being questioned. It also shows how insincere and hypocritical those are who try to portray this trial as a matter of freedom of expression, to cover up allegations against them."

The NGO also called authorities to take legal action against Murat Sabuncu and others involved in harassment of journalists and provide security for journalists covering such trials.

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