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Turkish journalists sentenced to five years after controversial trial

Can Dundar and Erdem Gul were acquitted of espionage, but will be jailed over charges of revealing state secrets
Can Dundar (L) and Erdem Gul (R) arrive at the Istanbul courthouse earlier this year (AFP)

An Istanbul court on Friday sentenced two opposition journalists on controversial charges of revealing state secrets in a trial that has become a lightning rod for concerns about eroding media freedoms inTurkey.

Can Dundar, editor-in-chief of leading opposition daily Cumhuriyet, was sentenced to five years and 10 months, while his Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul was given five years in prison, television stations said.

The two men were acquitted of espionage, but found guilty of revealing state secrets in a story accusing Turkey's government of seeking to illicitly deliver arms bound for Syria.

They will not immediately be placed in detention as the court of appeal has yet to rule on the case.

"We will continue to do our job as journalists, despite all these attempts to silence us," Dundar told reporters after the verdict. "We have to preserve courage in our country."

The sentencing came hours after Dundar avoided an apparent attempt on his life by a gunman outside the courthouse.

Brandishing a pistol, the attacker fired several times before being detained by police. Dundar was unharmed. NTV television said one of its reporters, Yagiz Senkal, was lightly wounded by a ricocheting bullet.

Cumhuriyet's report on the shipment of arms intercepted at the Syrian border in January 2014 sparked a furore when it was published last May, fuelling speculation about Turkey's role in the Syrian conflict and its alleged ties to militant groups in the country.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reacted strongly to the allegations, personally warning Dundar that he would "pay a heavy price".

Fears over media freedoms have increased since Erdogan became president in August 2014, with some 2,000 people, including many journalists, facing charges of insulting the president.