Turkish journalist Can Dundar sentenced to 27 years in prison

An Istanbul court sentenced the former editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet in absentia on charges of espionage and supporting an armed terrorist organisation

FILE - In this April 7, 2017 file photo, Can Dundar the former chief editor of the Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet poses for a photo prior to an interview with the Associated Press in Berlin. A court in Istanbul convicted exiled journalist Can Dundar on espionage and terror-related charges for a news report and sentencing him to a total of 27 1/2 years in prison. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, file)
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Turkish journalist Can Dundar has been sentenced to more than 27 years in prison for allegedly supporting terrorism and "political or military espionage".

An Istanbul court on Wednesday sentenced the former editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet newspaper in absentia to 18 years and nine months for obtaining state secrets for the purpose of espionage and eight years and nine months for supporting an armed terrorist organisation without being a member.

Dundar is currently in exile in Germany and the defence team were absent from the trial in protest at what they have called politically motivated charges.

"We do not want to be part of a practice to legitimise a previously decided, political verdict," the lawyers said in a written statement on Tuesday ahead of the hearing.

The court delayed its verdict earlier this month after Dundar's lawyers asked for the judges to be replaced to ensure a fair trial. The court rejected the request.

The journalist fled Turkey in 2016 to escape legal charges after being convicted of espionage for publishing a story about a Turkish arms shipments to Syrian rebels the year before.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had warned he would "pay a heavy price" for the report.

Reporters Without Borders ranked Turkey 154th out of 180 countries in its 2020 Press Freedom Index. Dundar said the trial verdict could have a further chilling effect.

On Monday, a Turkish court sentenced prominent Kurdish former MP Leyla Guven, who went on a months-long hunger strike, to more than 22 years in jail on terrorism-related charges.

A lawsuit was filed on the same day against a member of the main opposition party for insulting the president.