Erdem Gül is the former Ankara Bureau Chief for the Cumhuriyet newspaper. He was imprisoned on November 26, 2015, along with the former editor-in-chief of the newspaper, Can Dündar, in relation with a news report on an alleged weapons transfer on trucks operated by the National Intelligence Agency (MİT) to Syria.
The two journalists were put under arrest on charges of “acquiring documents related to state security,” “political and military espionage,” “disclosing classified documents” and “spreading propaganda on behalf of a terrorist organization.”
Ninety-two days into his imprisonment, on February 25, 2016, Gül was released following a Constitutional Court ruling that found rights violations in his and Dündar’s imprisonment.
On May 6, 2016, Gül was handed down a five-year prison sentence for “acquiring and disclosing classified documents related to state security.” The court acquitted both Gül and Dündar of the charge of “attempting to overthrow the government.” It also ruled to treat other accusations related to the same report – “aiding FETÖ/PDY terrorist organization without being its member” — as a different case.
The court also dismissed the military espionage charge, saying it was unable to establish any connection to an agreement with a foreign nation or a terrorist organization.
Despite the sentencing, Gül remained free, pending the outcome of appeal.
The indictment into Dündar, Gül and the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Enis Berberoğlu, who is accused of providing footage of the trucks intercepted near the border with Syria, sought between 7.5 to 15 years for all three suspects on the charge of “knowingly aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” and an additional life sentence for Berberoğlu on charges of “disclosing classified documents for political or military espionage purposes.”
On May 24, 2017, the seventh hearing in the trial was held by Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court. The court adjourned the trial until June 14.
At the end of the hearing on June 14, the court ruled to sentence Berberoğlu to life imprisonment, reduced to 25 years in jail, and immediately ordered his arrest, while deciding to separate the charge of “knowingly aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” from the file.
In early March 2018, the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals reversed the 14th High Criminal Court’s May 6, 2016, judgment concerning Dündar and Gül in the “MIT trucks case.”
The 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals held that Gül “should have been acquitted of the unprovable charge due to a lack of sufficient, substantial and convincing evidence that he had joined Dündar in committing the offense.”
The 14th High Criminal Court of Istanbul began the retrial of Gül and Dündar on May 7, 2018.
In its interim ruling at the end of the closed hearing, the court ruled to separate Gül’s file.
The second session in the retrial of Gül, whose file had been separated from the main case at the end of the previous hearing, was held on July 16, 2018, at the 14th High Criminal Court of Istanbul. Gül was acquitted of the charges against him.
“Aiding a terrorist organization” charge
The final hearing of Gül and Berberoğlu in the “MIT trucks case” was held on 15 May 2019 at the 14th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
Gül and Berberoğlu were in attendance with their lawyers.
The accusation against Gül and Berberoğlu, “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member,” stems from a news report published in 2015 in Cumhuriyet daily about an alleged weapons transfer to Syria on trucks operated by Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency.
During the first half of the hearing, which was closed to the public, the court heard the final defense statements.
Following a recess, the audience and the press were allowed to enter the courtroom for the announcement of the verdict.
In its verdict on Gül, the court ruled that the type of offense had changed and a new charge of “violating the confidentiality of an investigation” arose, but since the four-month statute of limitations for pressing charges as per Article 26/1 of Turkey’s press law had expired, the court ruled to dismiss the case.
Concerning Berberoğlu’s file, the court ruled that there was no need to render a separate verdict on the charge of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” on the grounds of Berberoğlu’s previous conviction in relation to the same news report for “disclosing confidential information pertaining to the security of the state,” a charge that “also involves aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” and that has already been upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeals.