Ahmet Şık began his journalism career during his first year in university as a trainee reporter for the Milliyet Newspaper. Between 1991 and 2007, he worked as a reporter for the Cumhuriyet, Evrensel, and Yeni Yüzyıl newspapers as well as Nokta Magazine. He also worked as a photojournalist for the Reuters News Agency. In 2005, he was sacked from the Radikal Newspaper due to a lawsuit involving Doğan Media Group for a personal action. Afterwards, he started to work for Aktüel Magazine, but he was again sacked for the same reason.
In the scope of the Cumhuriyet Newspaper Case, he was jailed for 14 months and then he was sentenced to 7.5 years imprisonment. The verdict was appealed to the Court of Cassation. According to the notification letter from the Prosecutor’s Office of the court, it was demanded that Ahmet Şık’s sentence for the charges of “aiding and abetting the terrorist organizations intentionally” be dismissed. The Prosecutor’s Office of the Court of Cassation demanded to dismiss the local court’s decision to sentence Şık and 14 other journalists. Though the other defendants in the same file were acquitted of the charges, Şık was not. It was ruled that Şık should be prosecuted on the charges of “praising the terrorist organizations and violence”, “publicly defaming the state’s institutions and organs” by making propaganda for terrorist organizations instead of “aiding and abetting the terrorist organizations intentionally.”
The Court of Cassation’s 16th Penal Chamber reversed all the prison sentence decisions against Ahmet Şık. The Chamber also reversed the decision of sentencing Şık to 7 years and 8 months in prison for “aiding an organization.” It asked for Ahmet Şık’s prosecution with regards to the TMK article 6, on allegations of “legitimazing the actions of the organization” and “insulting the bodies of the state.” The retrial of all the defendants will start at the Istanbul 27th Heavy Penal Court.
Şık was also put on trial for violating article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code for two interviews that were published in Nokta Magazine and titled, “The Military Should Withdraw from Domestic Security,” and “That Day in Bayrampaşa,” which was conducted with Münevver Köz who was in the Bayrampaşa prison’s women ward during the December 2000 police operation known as “Hayata Dönüş” (Return to Life) in Bayrampaşa Prison. He was acquitted from the case, in which a punishment of 3 years imprisonment was recommended for “violating the confidentiality of the Ergenekon Investigation” through his books titled, “A Guide to Have an Insight on Counter Guerrilla and Ergenekon” [his colleague, Ertuğrul Mavioğlu was the co-author] and “Who is Who in Ergenekon?” on May 13, 2011. He was jailed for 375 days, pending trial in the scope of the Oda TV Case and was then acquitted.
Ahmet Şık was elected as a Member of Parliament for the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in general elections on June 24, 2018.
Ahmet Şık was taken into custody on Dec. 29, 2016, at early in the morning by the İstanbul Security Department. At the time, he was a correspondent for the Cumhuriyet Newspaper. The İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued an order to take him into custody. The investigation was conducted by prosecutor Fahrettin Kemal Yerli, who was one of the prosecutors at the Bureau of the Press Offences.
“I am being detained. I will be taken to the prosecutor’s office regarding a tweet,” Şık said, announcing his detainment on his Twitter account at 07:56 a.m. After the health check, he was brought to the İstanbul Police Department located on Vatan main street. While he was supposed to be referred to the Prosecutor’s Office, Şık’s testimony was taken by the prosecutor Yerli who instead came to the police department.
Upon hearing the news about his detention, Şık’s lawyers went to the police department and was delayed in seeing him for a long time. Afterwards, the prosecutor, Yerli notified the lawyers that he issued a restriction to visits and to the investigation file of Şık. His lawyers lacked formal information regarding his custody for a long time. Yet, on the same day of issuing the restriction, the content of Şık’s file was reported by the state-run Anadolu News Agency. The lawyers who were prevented to visit their client learned the reason of the investigation and the charges on him from the press. It was stated the reasons for his detention were making propaganda for a terrorist organization and insulting the Turkish Republic, its judiciary, its military and police organizations explicitly in both his columns in the newspaper and his tweets.
The details of the investigation were published by the Sabah Newspaper as well as Anadolu News Agency. Claims put forward by the columnist Nazif Karaman, were used against Ahmet Şık as if they were the charges.
Meanwhile, his lawyers objected to the decision to detain Şık, as he was taken into custody from his house without any notification and this was a violation of the presumption of innocence. In the objection, it was stated that both Şık’s home address and work address were known. It was emphasized that Ahmet Şık was a famous and respected person, therefore, if he had been invited by the prosecutor, he would have “complied with the call unhesitantly.” It was also stated that “Taking him into custody by arrest, from his house at a very early time in the morning, without any notification, was against the law.”
During his interrogation, the prosecutor asked Şık about his tweets and his articles titled “Ya Apo Kandil’e, ya biz İmralı’ya” (“Either Apo goes to Kandil, or we’ll go to İmralı,” dated March 14, 2015), “Bizimki gazetecilik, sizinki ihanet” (“Ours is journalism, yours is treason,” dated July 8, 2015), “MİT TIR’ları savcısı, MİT, Reyhanlı’ya göz yumdu” (“The MİT [Turkish National Intelligence Agency] Truck Investigation’s Prosecutor overlook the Reyhanlı [bombing],” dated July 9, 2015), “Tırdaki sır aydınlandı” (“The mystery the [MİT] trucks have revealed,” dated Feb. 13, 2015) and his interview with Cemil Bayık - one of the leaders of the PKK [a Kurdish militant organisation].
Ahmet Şık made a statement against the charges: “If the jurisdiction were independent, impartial and equitable, I would then want to give my testimony. [On those conditions] there wouldn’t be such an investigation though.”
On being charged by the prosecutor Yerli with reference to Karaman’s column in the newspaper, Şık asked: “Who conducts the investigation? Is it the Ministry of Justice or the Prosecutor’s Office or a media employee?”
Şık reiterated that his professional activities had previously been made the subject of an investigation five years ago, when he was charged within the scope of Ergenekon terrorist organization.
The İstanbul 8th Magistracy of the Peace decided Ahmet Şık should be arrested for “making propaganda for the FETÖ, DHKP/C and PKK terrorist organizations” on Dec. 30, 2016.
Ahmet Şık’s file was merged with the files of employees and executives of the Cumhuriyet Newspaper upon the operation on Oct. 31, 2016. In the indictment which was prepared by the deputy of the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor Mehmet Arif Ekinci and the prosecutor Yasemin Baba on April 3, 2017, Ahmet Şık was included as well.
Mehmet Akif Ekinci, the deputy of the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor and Yasemin Baba, a junior prosecutor with the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, merged Ahmet Şık’s file with the Cumhuriyet investigation and issued an indictment about 18 employees of the newspaper on April 3, 2017. Before it was given to the lawyers of the case, the indictment was announced by a correspondent at the Sabah Newspaper, Nazif Karaman. The main charge of the indictment was that there had been a change in the publishing policy of the newspaper and thus, the FETÖ/PDY, PKK/KCK and DHKP-C organizations were aided through this shift. The charge was not directed by the prosecutors. The Prosecutor’s Office directed the charge through an expert witness and also “an expert of communication,” including Ünal Aldemir and the other witnesses. The witnesses of the Prosecutors Office were Cem Küçük, Hüseyin Gülerce, Latif Erdoğan, Alev Coşkun, Rıza Zelyut, Mehmet Faraç, Ceyhan Mumcu, Şükran Soner, Nail İnal, Talat Atila, İbrahim Yıldız, Ali Açar, İnan Kıraç, Mustafa Pamukoğlu, Nevzat Tüfekçioğlu and Namık Kemal Boya.
The İstanbul 27th Assize Court accepted the indictment on April 18, 2017. It was claimed that Ahmet Şık should be punished for “aiding an armed terrorist organization although he is not a member of that organization.” Şık’s news reporting and social media posts were regarded as evidence for the crime.
The news reports in question were his interview with Cemil Bayık, his phone interview with a group that took prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz as hostage, and the news reports he wrote about the MIT trucks. In addition, his statement which he made while attendeding a workshop on press freedom [“those who work for PKK are journalists as well”], also became a subject of accusation.
In the indictment, Şık’s interviews were claimed to be “presenting the terrorist organizations as legitimate, and serving them in such a way to support the actions of those organizations.” Moreover, he was accused of “making an effort to create a chaotic atmosphere by presenting the legitimate operations of the state as actions of a terrorist organization and making it look like a murderer” through his social media posts.
The initial accusation of “making propaganda for FETÖ” which was directed to him during his arrest, was not included in the indictment.
The prosecutors asserted that Şık “was writing columns and sharing posts which were legitimizing the actions of terrorist organizations of PKK/KCK and DHKP-C and presenting the terrorists as benevolent people to the public.”
The Cumhuriyet trial started on July 24, 2017 [the date known as the Day of the Press], in the İstanbul 27th High Criminal Court in the Çağlayan Courthouse. The first hearing of the trial took five days. Şık made his initial defense on July 26, 2017. At the beginning of his 26-page defense, Şık quoted from the preface of his book “Paralel Yürüdük Biz Bu Yollarda” [“We Walk Parallel Along This Path,” which was published in 2017. In the book, he explained the partnership between the Gülen congregation and the AKP. The title of the book refers to the “Parallel State Structure/Paralel Devlet Yapılanması” in a wordplay. The PDY was the term that AKP named the congregation after the break-up.] Reiterating that he was arrested once more for doing his job, Şık stated journalism was not a crime and added:
“I was a journalist yesterday. I am a journalist today. I will continue being a journalist tomorrow. This uncompromising conflict with the ones who want to strangle the truth will never end. In these dark days, the thing that we need is not the loss of the truth. More than anything, we need the truth, and we need it very much. That’s why I will continue to respect myself even more by declining to join the denial and submission cadres. It is obvious that it has a price. But don’t think that it scares me. Neither me nor the Journalists Outside Bars, whom I am proud to friends with. No matter what you are, we are not afraid of you. Because we know bullies are scared of bravery the most. And bullies should know that no cruelty can change the flow of history. Down with tyranny, long live freedom!”
During the interrogation at the court, Ahmet Şık was asked about his news reporting on the MIT trucks and the hostage incident involving prosecutor Selim Kiraz. He defended his news reportings. Then the presiding judge asked Şık if any of his writing has been censored by the Cumhuriyet. He replied: “I would never work in a place where any of my own or my friends’ work was censored. I would resign.” The hearing ended on July 28, 2017. The court ruled for the continuation of Şık’s arrest.
The second hearing of the trial was held on Sept. 11, 2017. In the hearing, Ahmet Şık said he wanted to draw attention to a piece of unlawful evidence that had been added to the file. Şık noted that regarding his reports on the prosecutor Kiraz’s hostage situation, the Press Crimes Investigation Bureau of the İstanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office ruled for a decision of non-prosecution. However, the prosecutor Fahrettin Kemal Yerli presented the phone calls’ HTS records as “new evidence” to the file, and lifted the decision of non-prosecution. Şık noted it was a violation of his rights and criticized the entry of the prosecutor’s notice into the court file.
The fifth hearing of the trial was held on Dec. 25, 2017. In the hearing, Şık noted he would make a statement for two hours. In his defense, Şık criticised the AKP. Thereupon, the Presiding Judge Dağ interrupted Şık and warned him to “stay in the scope of the defense” and then he gave a command to the gendarmery to take him out of the courtroom. Şık who noted the trial was a political one while being evicted from the courtroom by gendarmery said: “I hope someday, you will not be judged by a court like yours.” Akın Atalay and Murat Sabuncu said they would not defend themselves in court due to Şık’s defense being interrupted. The court ruled for the continuation of the arrests.
The sixth hearing of the trial was held in the courthouse built in the campus of Silivri Prison on March 9, 2018. At the end of the hearing, the court ruled to release of Ahmet Şık and Murat Sabuncu. The seventh hearing of the trial was held on April 24, 2018, in Silivri. The Prosecutor Hasan Bölükbaşı declared his opinion as to the accusations. The opinion included an expression saying “it is certain that the action of publishing is a matter of adjudication as a whole” and the prosecutor recommended up to 15 years of prison for Ahmet Şık on charges of “aiding and abetting an organization knowingly and willingly, although he does not belong to the structure of that organization.”
The final hearing of trial took place on April 24-25, 2018 in the hearing room across from Silivri Prison. Ahmet Şık made his last defense against the opinion of the prosecutor and said that he had two experiences in prison, and added that he was first arrested as a result of the Gülen congregation’s plot and his professional actions were seen as subjects of a crime. He mentioned that for the second time, he was arrested due to this case. Again, his professional activities were the reason for his detention, he said. He finished his statement as such: “As I have always said, I am behind what I have said and done. Because journalism is not a crime.”
On April 25, 2018, the last words of the defendants were heard. Ahmet Şık said: “It was explicit from the beginning that there was a conspiracy of which the intention was certain, made by some members of the gang of politics, bureaucracy, jurisdiction and media. The intention was to bring those who defended peace, freedom, equality and the rule of law, to their knees. With the wave of examples, making the whole society surrender. As I always said throughout my life, let’s remind them and alike gangs, what they deserve: If there’s someone to surrender, it is you!”
The court sentenced Ahmet Şık to 7 years and 6 months in prison on charges of “aiding and abetting terrorist organizations - PKK, DHKP-C, and FETÖ/PDY - knowingly and willingly, although he does not belong to the structure of those organizations.” And they did not offer any remission. In the reasoning of the verdict, Şık’s reporting and social media posts were presented as evidence. All of his statements during the judicial proceedings were included in the verdict as “throughout his defenses he continuously adopted such an attitude that he accused the state and the system, in spite of all the warnings, he did not give up his attitude and he used a political discourse which reflected the main arguments of the terrorist organizations.
After the verdict was declared, Şık was elected as an MP in the general elections on June 24, 2018. Thereafter, it was demanded that his trial be stopped. The İstanbul Regional Court of Justice’s 3rd Penal Chamber approved the verdict on Feb. 18, 2019. According to the verdict of the Uniform Code of Criminal Justice, the people who are sentenced to more than five years in prison have the right of objection in the Court of Cassation. The attorneys of the journalists appealed the verdict to the Court of Cassation’s 16th Penal Chamber on Feb. 26, 2019.
Mücahit Erdoğan and Turan Kuloğlu, the public prosecutors in the Court of Cassation presented their notification letter to the 16th Penal Chamber on July 16, 2019. It was demanded that the verdicts regarding journalists other than Ahmet Şık be dismissed and they should be acquitted of the charges.
It was also demanded in the notification letter that a potential decision of acquittal should influence the defendants sent to prison because their verdicts of imprisonment for under 5 years were finalized by the Court of Appeal.
Şık had been sentenced to 7 years and 6 months of imprisonment by the local court on the charges of “aiding and abetting the terrorist organizations intentionally.” The Prosecutor’s Office of the Court of Cassation also demanded that Şık’s sentencing be reversed. However, Şık was not acquitted of the charges though the other defendants in the same file were acquitted.
In the notification letter, it was claimed Şık should be prosecuted according to TMK 6/2 on the charge of “praising the terrorist organizations and violence,” and according to TCK 301 on the charge of “publicly defaming the state’s institutions and organs” by making propaganda for terrorist organizations instead of “aiding and abetting the terrorist organizations intentionally.”
It was also claimed in the notification letter that Şık presented the terrorist organization’s actions and thoughts, which include threats and violence as legitimate through his articles titled, “Either Apo goes to Kandil, or we’ll go to İmralı” and “Ours is journalism, yours is treason” and his news reports about the murdering of İstanbul Public Prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz.
Moreover, Şık’s three tweets including that “You get irritated when I said the state is the murderer itself” were regarded as an element of crime as it meant publicly defaming the state’s institutions and organs. It was also claimed that he committed crime by his two tweets as he made propaganda for an organization.
In the notification letter, it was demanded that Şık’s case should be stopped as he was elected as a Member of Parliament. It was mentioned that the local court issued the verdict before he became an MP.
The Court of Cassation’s 16th Penal Chamber reversed the decision of sentencing Şık to 7 years and 8 months in prison for “aiding an organization.” It asked for Ahmet Şık’s prosecution with regards to the TMK article 6, on allegations of “legitimazing the actions of the organization” and “insulting the bodies of the state” in accordance with TCK’s 301st article.
In the reasoned decision, Şık’s news about the murder of Istanbul Public Prosecutor Mehmet Selim kiraz was examined. It was mentioned that though the news report was published in the newspaper, there was no file suited within the following 4 months period as is determined by the Press Law. Yet, it was stated that as the news was published in the website of the newspaper, it cannot be regarded within the scope of the Press Law, thus the condition of 4 months cannot be applied to the case.
The retrial of all the defendants will start at the Istanbul 27th Heavy Penal Court.
The Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights
Ahmet Şık appealed to the Constitutional Court (AYM) on Jan. 10, 2017 about the “false imprisonment” as an individual. In July 2018, the respective department of the Constitutional Court referred Şık’s file to the General Board. The appeal was discussed on May 2, 2019 and the General Board decided there was no violation of rights regarding Şık’s appeal.In the Constitutional Court’s decision on May 2, 2019, it was stated that Şık exceeded the limits of reporting news through his reports and he was “propagating the terrorist organizations’ discourses to a wide audience.”
It was claimed that Şık made news about the murder of the Istanbul Public Prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz and commited a crime by “conducting interviews with the agents of the murder and making their messages public.”
The Supreme Court evaluated the reasoning of Şık’s arrest warrant by saying, “there is a suspicion of fleeing and influencing the evidence” and it was not baseless. Upon this evaluation the court referred to the July 15th coup attempt. In the decision, it was claimed that he should be arrested because the other precautions may be inefficient due to the conditions after the coup attempt.
Following these reasonings, the Constitutional Court rejected the claim that Şık’s “freedom and security rights” and “the freedom of expression and press” had been violated.
Yet, this decision was made by majority of votes. Ergin Yıldırım, the deputy chairman of the Constitutional Court objected to the decision.
In his reasoning of the opposition, Yıldırım stated Şık’s news reports about the murdering of Istanbul Public Prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz, can not be regarded as a propaganda for a terrorist organization. Yıldırım initially said Şık’s interview during the terrorists’ actions resulted in the propagation of their messages to the public and it cannot be denied. However, he added that not only Şık, but almost all the other journalists and press outlets “informed the public about the aims and actions of the terrorists.” Yıldırım said this was natural in terms of journalism and added in his opposition note that:
“Adopting an oppositional stance may result in regarding the journalists’ news reporting of terrorist actions as potentially making propaganda for that organization. And such a conclusion in a democratic society hinders the flow of information as well as forming of a healthy environment to discuss the terrorism events.”
Yıldırım also criticized the evaluation that Şık was talking about “terrorists by calling them guerillas,” therefore he was making propaganda for the organization. Yıldırım said this kind of an approach would lead the way to seriously restrict the independent and free profession of journalism with regards to terrorist organizations. Yıldırım’s following statements were also noteworthy:
“Which words and concepts to use during an interview with a terrorist organization’s leader is a matter of choice for the journalist or the press outlet’s editorial policy. The wrong choices should be evaluated not as a crime of propaganda for a terrorist organization, but as an example of problematical journalism.”
In his oppositional note, Yıldırım also mentioned it is possible to regard Şık’s harsh and critical articles, news reports and posts as problematical in terms of journalism ethics. However, none of them include any wording which overtly encourage violence and the terrorist actions.
Yıldırım said that the reasoning of Şık’s detention for more than a year are neither persuasive nor efficient. He also added that:
“It has been deduced that the ruling of detention as precaution about the defendant, due to his language, wording and style in the news reports, articles and social media posts other than putting forth strong evidence with concrete facts, is conflicting with the constitutional assurances of freedom of expression and press.”
Ahmet Şık also appealed individually to the European Court of Human Rights on May 10, 2017. The appeal has not yet been discussed. In his appeal, Şık pointed to the precedent of Oda TV case in which ECHR had come to a decision of violation of his rights through imprisonment. This situation sank in the minds as “the precedent of Ahmet is Ahmet himself.”
Cumhuriyet Newspaper Trial (Indictment)
Cumhuriyet Newspaper Trial (Reasoned Judgement)
Cumhuriyet Newspaper Trial (The Constitutional Court's Judgement)
Cumhuriyet Newspaper Trial (Notification of the Prosecutor's Office (CoC))
Cumhuriyet Newspaper Trial (The Court of Cassation's Judgement)
Cumhuriyet Newspaper Trial (The Court of Appeal's Judgement)