ISTANBUL: The editor-in-chief of Turkey’s top opposition daily Cumhuriyet announced on Monday he was stepping down, saying he no longer had faith in the judiciary to hear an appeal in a controversial secrecy trial after the failed coup.
An Istanbul court had in May sentenced Can Dundar to five years and 10 months in prison for allegedly revealing state secrets in a story that infuriated Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Dundar was allowed to go free pending appeal after the trial and is now believed to be in Germany. But he said he would not surrender to the judiciary as the state of emergency imposed after the coup meant he would not get a fair hearing.
He said all the signs indicated a period of “lawlessness” was under way, and that the state of emergency was being used by the government as a pretext to arbitrarily control the judiciary.
“To trust such a judiciary would be like putting one’s head under the guillotine,” he wrote in a Cumhuriyet column entitled “time to say farewell”.
“From now on, what we face would not be the court but the government. No higher court would object to the lawlessness being carried out,” he said.
“Therefore, I’ve decided not to surrender to this judiciary at least until the state of emergency is lifted.”
Dundar, a hugely prominent figure in Turkey and author of several books and documentaries, was appointed Cumhuriyet editor in February 2015 and swiftly made it Turkey’s sharpest opposition daily.
He said he would be passing on the post of editor-in-chief but would remain writing articles as a columnist.
Its report on a shipment of arms intercepted at the Syrian border in January 2014 sparked a furore when it was published in May 2015, with Erdogan warning Dundar himself he would “pay a heavy price.”
Dundar, together with his Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul, spent three months in pre-trial detention, before being freed on February 26 under a constitutional court ruling.
Reporters without Borders has labeled Turkey as “world leader” in imprisoned journalists after what it called a “witchhunt” launched in the wake of the coup attempt.
In the draconian state of emergency imposed after the abortive coup, the authorities have closed more than 100 media outlets critical of the government, placed 42 journalists in provisional detention and banned many others from traveling abroad, it said.