Can Dundar and Erdem Gul, who work for the Turkish daily newspaper Cumhuriyet, were arrested in November
Their report on arms shipments to Turkmen in Syria drew the wrath of President Erdogan
A hearing in the case against the two journalists has been set for March
Two Turkish journalists have been released after waiting 92 days in jail to be tried on charges of espionage, attempting to topple the government and aiding a terrorist network.
Can Dundar, the editor-in-chief of the Turkish daily newspaper Cumhuriyet, and Erdem Gul, the newspaper’s Ankara bureau chief, were arrested in November.
On Thursday, the country’s Constitutional Court overturned a lower court order saying the pair should be imprisoned for the duration of their trial.
The lower court will continue to hear the case against the two journalists, but they will not be imprisoned for the duration of the trial, barring a further ruling on the matter.
A hearing in their case has been set for March, and that is expected to continue as planned.
Pair accused of revealing state secrets
Dundar and Gul are accused of aiding a terrorist organization, seeking the overthrow of the government through violence, and espionage by obtaining and revealing state secrets.
The pair drew the ire of the government – and the wrath, in particular, of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – by publishing a story implicating Turkey’s national intelligence service in running guns to pro-Islamist groups in Syria, Turkey’s neighbor to the south.
The government has said the shipment was bound for Turkmen groups in Syria, with whom many Turks feel a kinship.
“The person who published this story as an exclusive story will, I believe, pay a high price for this,” Erdogan said after the story was published. “I will not let him be.”
The Constitutional Court, in its ruling, found that the defendants’ “right to liberty and security,” as well as the “freedom of expression and press,” had been violated.
Many journalists ‘have paid a higher price’
Once the court ruled, the two journalists were released from prison, and large group gathered in support. Dundar and Gul praised the court for being independent in the face of pressure from the President’s office.
“The price we have paid is nothing compared to the price journalists in Turkey have paid,” Dundar told reporters after being released. “We were imprisoned for three months. We are not going to complain about it when there are still journalists in prison and many have paid a higher price.”
Turkey ranks 149 out of 180 on the Reporters Without Borders 2015 World Press Freedom Index.
Criticism of government support for Syrian opposition
The report that landed Dundar and Gul in jail, accusing the Turkish National Intelligence Service of arming Islamist groups in Syria, has been at the heart of both foreign and domestic politics.
Many people in Turkey are critical of the government’s policy of supporting the opposition in Syria. The government has called repeatedly for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and has allowed the opposition to operate out of Turkey as well.
And domestically, the issue of the arms shipments to Syria – as well police and prosecutors who have sought to stop and inspect trucks carrying such shipments – have been even more explosive.
Erdogan has suggested that the stopping and searching of trucks bound for Syria is the work of a secret terrorist group, now classified by Turkish security forces and judiciary as the FETO terror group.