February 5, 2016 / 3:58 PM / 3 years ago

Turkish court to seek life without parole for prominent journalists

Can Dundar, editor-in-chief of the Cumhuriyet newspaper (C), is seen during a press freedom march in central Istanbul, Turkey, October 3, 2015. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

ANKARA (Reuters) - Two prominent Turkish journalists will be charged with assisting terrorists and face life sentences without parole if convicted, their lawyers said, after they published video footage purporting to show the state intelligence agency helping to send weapons to Syria.

An Istanbul court accepted an indictment on Friday seeking life imprisonment for Can Dundar, editor-in-chief of the secular Cumhuriyet newspaper, and Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul, who were arrested in November, lawyers for the two men said.

The case has drawn international condemnation and revived concern about press freedom under President Tayyip Erdogan.

The two are charged with intentionally aiding an armed terrorist organization and publishing material in violation of state security. Cumhuriyet, one of Turkey’s main opposition newspapers, published photos, videos and a report in May that it said showed intelligence officials transporting arms to Syria in trucks — allegedly to opposition fighters — in 2014.

Erdogan, who has cast the newspaper’s coverage as part of an attempt to undermine Turkey’s global standing, has said he will not forgive such reporting.

He has acknowledged that the trucks, which were stopped by gendarmerie and police officers en route to the Syrian border, belonged to the MIT intelligence agency and said they were carrying aid to Turkmens in Syria. Turkmen fighters are battling both President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and Islamic State.

The first hearing will be held on March 25, lawyers said.

Reporting by Gulsen Solaker; Writing by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Catherine Evans

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