Exiled Turkish journalist Can Dündar sentenced to 27 years in prison

(Updated with reactions of German foreign minister, Erdoğan aide)

An Istanbul court has convicted veteran Turkish journalist Can Dündar to 27 years and 6 months in prison over terror and espionage charges on Wednesday, state-run Anadolu agency reported.

Dündar, who has been living in Germany since 2016, was facing charges over opposition daily Cumhuriyet’s coverage of the Turkish intelligence service, MİT, allegedly shipping weapons to Syrian jihadist groups, during his time as the newspaper’s editor-in-chief.

A previous sentence over the same charges had been overturned by Turkey’s Court of Cassation, leading to the current case against the journalist.

In October, the court ruled to seize Dündar’s assets in Turkey as he was declared a fugitive after he failed to return to Turkey on the court’s orders.

Dündar’s lawyers had announced on Tuesday that they would not be attending Wednesday’s hearings, saying the proceedings were “just for show.” The ruling was issued in absentia.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2015 had said Dündar would “pay a heavy price,” and that he wouldn’t “let him go like that,” during a televised interview.

The footage released by Cumhuriyet newspaper showed trucks controlled by MİT officials transporting more than 80,000 rounds of ammunition of various calibres, some 1,000 mortar shells and hundreds of grenade launcher projectiles.

Police and gendarmerie units searched four trucks in the southern province of Adana in several raids, one in November 2013 and three others in January 2014, on the orders of prosecutors acting on tip-offs that they had been carrying weapons. While the first truck was seized, the rest were allowed to continue their journey.

Dündar was also convicted of aiding FETÖ, the name Turkey's government uses for the followers of U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, who it accuses of having masterminded the failed coup attempt of July 15, 2016. The group has been designated a terrorist organisation by Ankara.

German Foreign Affairs Minister Heiko Maas on Wednesday reacted to Dündar’s sentencing, calling it a “hard blow to independent journalistic work in Turkey.’’

“Journalism is an indispensable service to society - especially when it critically watches the rulers,’’ Maas said on Twitter.

Turkey's Presidential CommunicationsDirector Fahrettin Altunresponded to Maas, saying the German foreign minister’s reference to Dündar as a journalist was “an insult to real journalists everywhere.’’

“Dündar was convicted on charges of espionage and assisting a terrorist organization,’’ Altun said.”Instead of endorsing his crimes, our counterparts should extradite him to Turkey.’’