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Turkish court sentences Syrian correspondent to over 4 years in prison for insulting Erdogan

Hosni Mahali, a journalist working for Syria’s official news agency, SANA, in Turkey (file photo)

A court in Turkey has sentenced a journalist working for Syria’s official news agency, SANA, to more than four years in prison for allegedly insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan but indeed exposing the Ankara government’s support for foreign-sponsored Takfiri terrorists operating inside Syria.

The Istanbul Criminal Court passed the ruling on Hosni Mahali after he was found guilty of “insulting Erdogan over his policies and blaming his government for letting terrorists cross into Syria.”

The court also charged Mahali, who suffers from multiple sclerosis (MS), with “offending senior Turkish officials” after he filed reports about Erdogan’s policies that have resulted in domestic crises as well as internal and external problems for Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Mahali has reacted to the court ruling, saying, “All political leaders, ministers, former diplomats and even US former Vice President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Russian President Vladimir Putin, have stated that the Turkish regime supports terrorism in Syria …and as a journalist, I refer to the statements of those officials”.

Turkey stands accused of supporting militant groups fighting to topple the Damascus government since March 2011. 

A screen grab from a video published on the website of the Turkish Cumhuriyet daily on May 29, 2015 shows mortar shells in boxes intercepted on a truck destined for Syria.

Back in May 2015, Turkey’s center-left and opposition daily newspaper Cumhuriyet posted on its website footage showing Turkish security forces in early 2014 intercepting a convoy of trucks carrying arms for the militants in Syria.

The paper said the trucks were carrying some 1,000 mortar shells, hundreds of grenade launchers and more than 80,000 rounds of ammunition for light and heavy weapons.

Ankara denied the allegation and claimed that the trucks had been carrying humanitarian aid to Syria. However, lawmaker from the opposition Republican People's Party Enis Berberoglu defended the video, saying it was genuine.

The leaked footage triggered a huge controversy in Turkey, with many bashing the government for explicitly supporting terrorism in neighboring Syria.

Cumhuriyet’s former editor-in-chief Can Dundar and the daily’s Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul were among other defendants in the case. Dundar and Gul were sentenced to five years and 10 months in jail for “leaking secret information of the state.”

Dundar moved to Germany in June 2016, and stepped down from his position in August that year.

An arrest warrant in absentia was issued in Turkey for Dundar on October 31, 2016.

On July 16 this year, Istanbul’s 14th Heavy Penal Court dropped espionage charges against Gul, who used to serve as the Ankara representative of Cumhuriyet.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The Syrian government says the Israeli regime and its Western and regional allies are aiding Takfiri terrorist groups wreaking havoc in the country.

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