Turkey's top court rules banning news on Syria-bound intelligence trucks violation

Turkey’s Constitutional Court ruled on Friday that the Turkish judiciary had violated opposition daily Cumhuriyet’s right to freedom of expression by imposing a broadcast ban on the news about Syria-bound trucks carrying weapons.

Four trucks were searched in the southern province of Adana in raids by police and gendarmerie, one in November 2013 and the three others in January 2014, on the orders of prosecutors acting on tip-offs that they were carrying weapons.

While the first truck was seized, the three others were allowed to continue their journey after Turkey's intelligence agency MIT officials accompanying the cargo threatened police and physically resisted the search. The search of the first truck exposed a large number of munitions under a thin layer of medical supplies.

In 2014, a Turkish court in the southern city of Adana imposed a broadcast ban on the news about MIT trucks and investigations into Turkish officials got involved in the incident. The broadcast ban decision did not meet the requirements of the applicable law, the ruling said. 

The incident involving the trucks received international attention in May 2015 when Cumhuriyet newspaper released footage showing the 2014 inspection. The MIT trucks had been carrying over 80,000 rounds of ammunition of various calibres, some 1,000 mortar shells and hundreds of grenade launchers projectiles, the newspaper reported.

The revelations caused a political storm in Turkey, and enraged Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who vowed Can Dündar, the editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet, would pay a heavy price.

Dündar and Erdem Gül, the daily’s Ankara bureau chief, were later accused of spying, divulging state secrets” and being part of Gülen Movement, an Islamist network led by U.S. based cleric Fethullah Gülen that Turkey blames for orchestrating a coup attempt in 2016.

In 2018, 14 staff of Cumhuriyet were also sentenced to jail on charges of terrorism and supporting Gülen movement.