The pair were arrested in November last year and held in pre-trial detention for 92 days, before the Constitutional Court declared their imprisonment violated their “rights to personal liberty and security.”
Although this ruling temporarily ensured their release, Dündar and Gül could still face life sentences if found guilty.
The case was filed by President Erdoğan himself and he will act as a sub-plaintiff in the trial, alongside MIT.
Both Dündar and Gül deny all allegations and Dündar stated today “this news is not an act of terrorism but an act of journalism, so this judge we hope will approve this decision and drop the case.”
The trial however has been delayed until April 1 due to the court’s decision to hold a secret trial, following a request from the prosecutors. This was met with anger in the courtroom according to Twitter users.
Opposition lawmakers from the People’s Republican Party (CHP) and the People’s Democracy Party (HDP) refused to leave the court and are now facing legal proceedings themselves.
International and domestic rights groups have expressed concern over these arrests, which have been presented as a symbolic attack on freedom of speech and of the press. Emma Sinclair-Webb from Human Rights Watch stated on Twitter that the court’s decision to close the trial is a “travesty of justice.”
The decision has also been heavily criticized by the International and European Federation of Journalists for excluding press from covering the case, which has been seen as a battle between the law and the presidency since Erdoğan criticized the Constitutional Court over their decision.
Multiple diplomats and ambassadors had attended the trial, including Leigh Turner, British Consul General Istanbul. Photos of Turner with Can Dündar were quickly picked up by pro-government media organization the Star, who implied this to be evidence for espionage allegations, stating that “the game that’s being played is revealed in this selfie”.