ANKARA - Turkey's highest court overruled a five-year jail sentence against prominent journalist Can Dundar on Friday, saying he should face up to 20 years in prison on espionage charges, the state-run Anadolu agency said.
Dundar and his colleague from the Cumhuriyet newspaper, Erdem Gul, were both sentenced in 2016 to five years in prison for publishing a video purporting show Turkey's intelligence agency trucking weapons into Syria. They were later released pending appeal.
On Friday, the Supreme Court ruled the lower court should have sentenced Dundar on espionage-related charges, which carry a 15-20 year sentence, rather than the lesser charge of disclosing confidential information, Anadolu said. It said Gul should be acquitted due to lack of evidence.
Following his release, Dundar left Turkey and is now being tried in absentia. Gul remains in the country and free while his appeal is in process.
Dundar has become something of a global symbol of what President Tayyip Erdogan's critics say is a sweeping crackdown on press freedom in Turkey. More than 150,000 people have been sacked or suspended in the purge that followed a 2016 failed coup and more than 50,000 people have been detained.
"Real 'espionage' is the secret transfer of arms into a foreign country. Those who report on it are journalists," Dundar tweeted, in response to the report of the decision.
Last month, Turkey sentenced six other journalists, including two prominent brothers, to life in jail for aiding plotters of a 2016 failed coup.
Mehmet Altan, an economics professor and journalist, and his brother Ahmet, also a journalist, were accused of giving coded messages on a television talk show a day before the abortive military putsch. Nazli Ilicak, another well known journalist, was also among the sentenced. All six have denied the charges.
The government says its security measures are necessary given the multiple threats it faces.