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Turkish court convicts exiled journalist Can Dundar

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FILE: Can Dundar the former chief editor of the Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet in 2016.
FILE: Can Dundar the former chief editor of the Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet in 2016.   -   Copyright  Emrah Gurel/AP Photo, file
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A Turkish court has convicted exiled journalist Can Dundar on espionage and terror-related charges.

The court in Istanbul found Dundar guilty of “obtaining secret documents for espionage” and “aiding a terrorist organisation”, on Wednesday.

He has been sentenced to 27.5 years in prison.

Dundar, the former editor-in-chief of opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet, was on trial for a 2015 story accusing Turkey’s intelligence service of illegally sending weapons to Syria.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was infuriated by the publication, filing criminal charges against Dundar and Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul.

Erdogan said the trucks shown in a video along with the publication had carried aid to groups in Syria and that Dundar would “pay a high price" for the news report.

Turkey later interfered directly in the Syrian civil war, launching four cross-border operations.

Dundar and Gul were arrested in 2015 and were detained for three months before a trial.

In 2016, a court convicted them to five to six years in prison for “obtaining and revealing secret documents to be used for espionage.”

Dundar was attacked outside the courthouse on the same day as the verdict but was uninjured.

After Dundar appealed the conviction, the Supreme Court of Appeals overturned the sentences in 2018 and ordered a retrial with harsher sentences. The retrial began in 2019.

Dundar left for Germany in 2016 and was being tried in absentia. His property in Turkey was in the process of being seized.

Dundar is accused of aiding the network of US-based Fethullah Gulen, who the government says masterminded Turkey's 2016 failed coup.

Reporters Without Borders ranks Turkey at 154 out of 180 countries in its 2020 Press Freedom Index.