The trial of two Turkish journalists charged with espionage was adjourned on Friday after opposition lawmakers refused to leave the courthouse in defiance of a ruling that the case should be behind closed doors.

Can Dundar, editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet, and Erdem Gul, 49, the newspaper's Ankara bureau chief, stand accused of trying to topple the government with the publication last May of footage purporting to show Turkey's state intelligence agency helping to transport weapons to Syria in 2014.

The ruling on Friday came after the court accepted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Turkish intelligence agency, MIT, as sub-plaintiffs in the case.

The journalists are on trial for publishing images that reportedly date back to January 2014, when local authorities searched Syria-bound trucks, leading to a standoff with Turkish intelligence officials.


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Cumhuriyet said that the images proved Turkey was smuggling arms to rebels in Syria.

The US-based Human Rights Watch group criticised the decision to hold the trial behind closed doors.

Emma Sinclair-Webb, a researcher observing the trial, described the decision as a "travesty of justice," according to the DPA news agency.

'Atmosphere of fear'

"They have done nothing wrong but committed the act of journalism," Nina Ognianova, of the Committee to Protect Journalists, told the Associated Press news agency.

"They have covered a story of public interest that is important not only for Turkey but also the region and the international community."

On Thursday, Christophe Deloire, the secretary general of Reporters Without Borders, criticised the authorities for treating journalists as a threat when the country was facing "real terrorism".

He also criticised Erdogan himself, who filed the lawsuit against Dundar and Gul, for spearheading attacks against the media and creating what he called an "atmosphere of fear" 

Source: Agencies