Mustafa Erkan Acar

Mustafa Erkan Acar graduated from the Faculty of Communication at Ege University.

Acar started out as a journalist in 1995 as a correspondent for the now-closed Zaman newspaper’s Aegean Regional Office. He started working at Zaman newspaper’s Istanbul News Office in 1999. Acar worked as the news coordinator of Zaman newspaper between 2009-2013. He also worked as the news editor for the now-closed Bugün newspaper between July 2013 and November 2015. Acar worked as the news editor of Özgür Düşünce newspaper between November 2015 and July 2016.

All of the newspapers Acar worked at were shut down by statutory decrees issued as part of the State of Emergency rule declared following the military coup attempt on 15 July 2016. During the state of emergency period, the government shut down many media outlets by statutory decrees that were put into effect without the parliament’s approval.

Acar is the author of books titled Kod Adı Köroğlu: Kâşif Kozinoğlu [Codename Köroğlu: Kâşif Kozinoğlu] and Karanlık Oda [The Dark Room]

Acar was detained on 3 September 2016 on allegations of “being affiliated with FETO media organisation” as part of the investigation commenced by the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Istanbul. He was referred to the court to be remanded the same day. He was remanded the same day on the charge of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”. He was taken to the Silivri Closed High Security Prison.

Acar spent approximately four months in prison awaiting the indictment concerning him to be completed. The indictment completed on 16 January 2017 charged him with “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”. The prosecution demanded that Acar be sentenced to imprisonment of between five years and 10 years.

Acar was released pending trial at the first hearing of the trial on 31 March 2017. However, he was once again detained before having been released from the prison over a new investigation commenced concerning him. The custody procedures lasted for 14 days. Acar was once again remanded in custody over the charges of “attempting to destroy the constitutional order” and “attempting to destroy the Government of the Republic of Turkey” on 14 April 2017.

The second indictment charged Acar with “attempting to destroy the constitutional order” and “attempting to destroy the government”. The prosecution demanded that Acar be sentenced to two aggravated life sentences.

The two indictments were merged.

He was sentenced to imprisonment of seven years, six months on the charge of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation” at the end of the trial process on 8 March 2018.

The court of appeals approved the imprisonment sentence on 22 October 2018. The Court of Cassation finalised the verdict on 16 March 2020.

Acar has been serving his prison sentence as a convict at Istanbul Silivri Prison.

"Media Structure" Trial

The Republic of Turkey held the structure known as the Fethullah Gülen Congregation responsible for the military coup attempt of 15 July 2016. The National Security Council determined on 20 July 2016 that the military coup attempt “was initiated by FETÖ via its members within the Turkish Armed Forces.”

The structure, which was stated to have secretly organised within government agencies for years, was first described as a “terrorist organisation” by a court in 2014, and later in the recommendations of the National Security Council of 27 May 2016. The National Security Council, which formerly described the structure as an “illegal parallel structure”, named it the “Fethullah Terrorist Organisation and Parallel State Structure – FETÖ-PDY” in its July memorandum.

Following the attempted coup, investigations and trials were launched, and orders for arrest and detention were issued for many individuals who were claimed to be “affiliated” with this structure. As part of these investigations, a large number of journalists and writers were placed in custody and/or detained in many provinces of Turkey due to allegations of “membership of Fethullah Terrorist Organisation (FETÖ)” and “knowingly or willingly aiding the organisation despite not being a member of FETÖ”. Investigations and prosecutions were carried out during the State of Emergency (OHAL) declared soon after the attempted coup.

Zaman newspaper, Samanyolu TV, Cihan News Agency and many other newspapers, television and radio channels and internet news portals were shut down on the similar allegations by Statutory Decrees (KHK) that were put into effect without the parliament’s approval.

In this context, Terrorism and Organised Crime Investigation Bureau of the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Istanbul launched an investigation against 89 journalists and media workers on allegations of “membership of FETÖ/PDY”. The names of people who were placed in custody and the details of the investigation were communicated through the public broadcaster Anadolu Agency, and published on the website of Sabah newspaper.

Although many journalists were detained under the same investigation in July 2016, they stood trial based on different indictments. For example, Mümtazer Türköne, Şahin Alpay, Ali Bulaç and many other journalists stood trial as part of the “Zaman Newspaper Court Case”, whereas Nazlı Ilıcak, Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan, Bülent Keneş, Mehmet Kamış and many other journalists were tried within the case publicly known as the “Subliminal Coup Messages Court Case”.

Mustafa Erkan Acar, the news editor of the now-closed Bugün newspaper, was one of the people under investigation.

Acar was detained on 3 September 2016. He was taken to the Gayrettepe Public Security Branch Office in Istanbul. He was referred to the court to be remanded the same day.

He was remanded the same day on the charge of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”. He was taken to the Silivri Closed High Security Prison.

He spent approximately four months in prison awaiting the indictment concerning him to be completed. The indictment concerning 29 people, 27 of whom were journalists, including Acar, was completed on 16 January 2017.

The indictment concerning 29 defendants, 27 of whom were journalists, including Mustafa Erkan Acar, the news editor of the now-closed Bugün newspaper, was completed on 16 January 2017. The indictment consisted of 196 pages.

112 pages of the indictment listed allegations against the “Fethullah Terrorist Organisation /Parallel State Structure (FETO-PDY)”. This part was identical with the texts in indictments prepared for similar cases

The allegations against Acar started on page 174 of the indictment.

The indictment asserted that Acar had “deleted his Twitter account after the military coup attempt on 15 July 2016”. It was asserted that “majority of organisation members had done the same”.

The same section of the indictment asserted that some Twitter users had sent posts to the General Directorate of Security’s social media account that suggested Acar was preparing to flee the country.

The indictment also included a news article posted on Zaman newspaper’s Sunday supplement concerning the book Karanlık Oda [The Dark Room] written by Acar. It was asserted that Acar was “a writer for the Ergenekon media structure”. The indictment stated that the news article was published with the headline “There is an Organic Link Between the Revolutionary Headquarters and Oda TV”.

The indictment included an interview of Acar, in which he talked about what he went through after he was fired from the Bugün newspaper. In the article, which was published under the headline “We Learned to Resist Like a Leftist”, he wrote about what happened after a public administrator was appointed to the newspaper’s management.

Acar’s book titled Kod Adı Köroğlu [Codename Köroğlu], was cited among the evidence. The indictment asserted that the book contained information about “the illegal wiretapping carried out by FETO/PDY organisation members as part of the organisation’s activities”. Similarly, it was asserted that the book included conversations between the managers of Aydınlık newspaper and attorneys of İşçi Partisi [Labour Party], who were not involved in any investigation and under no surveillance orders.

Acar’s Bank Asya account activities were cited among evidence.

In many indictments prepared for similar charges, “Bank Asya account activities” were brought forward as “incriminating” facts. The allegation that Acar “deposited money upon instructions of Fetullah Gülen after the bank was put under investigation to support the bank” constituted the basis of the charge.

The indictment asserted that “all media outlets Acar worked at have carried out activities to alter perceptions on behalf of the organisation for long years”. In addition, the indictment asserted that Acar “labelled the investigations carried out against the organisation unlawful and threatened the investigation units with [future] prosecution”. It was also asserted that Acar was a member of the Media Ethics Council Association, the activities of which were terminated over the allegations of “being affiliated with the organisation”.

The indictment asserted that Acar had “participated in activities to alter perceptions on behalf of the organisation and is an organisation member”.

The indictment demanded that Acar be sentenced to imprisonment of between five years and 10 years on charges of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation” in line with Article 314/2 of the Turkish Penal Code. It was also demanded that Acar “be deprived of the enjoyment of certain rights” in accordance with Article 53 of the Turkish Penal Code.

The indictment was accepted by the 25th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

The trial concerning 29 individuals, of whom 27 are journalists, including Mustafa Erkan Acar, the news editor of the now-closed Bugün newspaper, commenced with the first hearing at the 25th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 27-31 March 2017. Acar had been in prison for approximately seven months when he first stood trial.

Attorney Ali Deniz Ceylan stated that the president of the court for the trial had detained Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu along with Atilla Taş, Murat Aksoy and Mutlu Çölgeçen when he served as judge for the 1st Court of Peace of Istanbul.

Stating that a judge who had served during the investigation process cannot serve during the trial process under the current law, attorney Ceylan demanded the president of the court’s recusal. The demand was rejected. Ceylan then demanded a “judicial disqualification”. The panel of judges unanimously rejected the demand for judicial disqualification on the grounds of it being “non-procedural”.

At the first hearing, the president of the court wanted to receive the defendants’ statements before the indictment was read.

Attorney Gülşah Kaya said: “I want the indictment to be read”. The president of the court interrupted attorney Kaya’s words. Upon this, Kaya said: “A hearing does not proceed with this sort of back and forth exchange. I make a demand, and you make a decision. You at least have the responsibility to summarise the indictment”. However, the president of the court did not respond to the demand.

The indictment was not read. However, the statement “the indictment was read” was written in the court minutes. Attorney Ömer Kavili demanded “Let the minutes reflect that this is a false statement”. The panel of judges did not respond. Spectators applauded Kavili. In response to applause, the president of the court reacted by saying: “Who do you think you’re applauding?”

The prosecutor for the hearing demanded 13 journalists, including Mustafa Erkan Acar, to be released pending trial at the last hearing of the trial on 31 March 2017. The court added eight more journalists to the 13 people to be released pending trial. Thus, 21 journalists were released. The court prohibited the journalists from travelling abroad.

A series of developments took place on 31 March 2017 when the ruling was declared and the early hours of the following day.

Cem Küçük, who wrote columns for newspapers known to have adopted a pro-government publishing policy, stated the following in his social media account: “Every prosecutor and judge will be discharged from duty who ordered the release of apparent FETO members. This is the state’s definitive judgment. Everybody should know it.” He also stated the following: “The Ministry of Justice and the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors started to take action. God willing, the traitors will not be set free.”

The prosecutor for the hearing objected to the release of eight journalists, who were released by the court even though the prosecutor had not demanded their release the same day on 31 March 2017. Despite the release order, eight journalists were not discharged from prison and were remanded in custody again.

On the other hand, a new investigation commenced the same day concerning the 13 journalists, including Mustafa Erkan Acar, whose release the prosecutor for the hearing had demanded and the court ruled accordingly. The new investigation charged Acar with “attempting a coup”.

Thus, none of the journalists for whom release orders were issued were released on 31 March 2017.

12 out of 13 journalists including Mustafa Erkan Acar who were detained again after their release were brought before the court after the custody procedures had ended, on 14 April 2017. They were remanded by the 2nd Criminal Court of Peace of Istanbul the same day on charges of “attempting to destroy the constitutional order” and “attempting to destroy the Government of the Republic of Turkey”.

The arrest warrant included the “risk of flight” of the journalists as a justification. However, the court had prohibited the journalists from travelling abroad in its release order.

The president and two members of the panel of judges who issued the release orders for 21 journalists at the first hearing of the trial were suspended by the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors. Cem Küçük, who wrote columns for newspapers known to have adopted a pro-government publishing policy, stated the following in his social media account: “Every prosecutor and judge will be discharged from duty who ordered the release of apparent FETO members.”

Following these incidents, the second hearing of the trial took place on 27 April 2017.

At this hearing, the court heard witnesses testify about the journalists.

The third hearing of the trial took place on 6 July 2017. The panel of judges rejected in its interim decision the demands of remanded journalists and their attorneys to be released at the end of the hearing.

THE SECOND INDICTMENT

Meanwhile, the second indictment concerning the 13 journalists who were ordered to be released at the first hearing of the trial, but were detained again based on a new investigation, was presented to the court on 5 June 2017.

The second indictment by the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Istanbul charged the 13 journalists with “attempting to alter perceptions in line with the aims of the organisation by means of the written and visual media and the internet”.

The indictment included among the evidence the fact that Acar had a Social Security Institution registration with Zaman and Bugün newspapers which were shut down by statutory decrees as part of the State of Emergency. It was asserted that these newspapers “were affiliated with the media structure of the organisation”.

The indictment also included the information that Acar was a member of the PAK Medya-İş Union. The trade union had been shut down by a statutory decree following the military coup attempt on 15 July 2016. During the state of emergency period, the government shut down not only media outlets, but also many associations and trade unions by statutory decrees.

As in the first indictment, the second indictment also included Acar’s Bank Asya account activities as an “element of crime”. It was also asserted that Acar’s wife, mother and father had a joint account at the said bank.

The indictment asserted that Acar “was in the vicinity of the building of the newspaper and television and the security directorate following the detention of Ekrem Dumanlı and Hidayet Karaca, who were the managers of Zaman newspaper and Samanyolu TV”. The prosecutor based these claims on the analysis of the mobile phone signals of Acar. During the detention of the managers of Zaman newspaper and Samanyolu TV, demonstrations took place outside the newspaper building and the Istanbul Security Directorate. It was asserted that the rally was “held by organisation members”.

It was also asserted that Acar “constituted the media structure of FETO/PDY armed terrorist organisation”.

The indictment charged Mustafa Erkan Acar with “attempting to destroy the constitutional order by means of coercion and violence” and “attempting to destroy the Government of the Republic of Turkey by means of coercion and violence” in accordance with Article 309/1 and 312/1 of the Turkish Penal Code. The prosecution demanded that Acar be sentenced to two aggravated life sentences.

The first hearing of the trial for the second indictment took place on 16 August 2017. The court ordered the trial of the journalists to continue by merging the two indictments.

The first hearing of the trial that continued after the two indictments were merged took place on 24-25 October 2017. The panel of judges had changed for the third time at this hearing of the trial. The hearing began with the president of the court reading the documents received by the court.

The second hearing of the trial that continued after the two indictments were merged took place on 3-4 December 2017. Six witnesses were heard at the hearing. The court ruled that all remanded defendants should be kept in remand.

The third hearing of the trial took place on 8 February 2018. The prosecutor presented the opinion of the prosecution as to the accusations at this hearing.

The opinion of the prosecution demanded that Mustafa Erkan Acar be acquitted of the charges of “attempting to destroy the constitutional order by means of coercion and violence” and “attempting to destroy the Government of the Republic of Turkey by means of coercion and violence”.

However, the prosecution demanded that Acar be sentenced on the charge of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”.

Following the opinion of the prosecution, journalists’ attorneys objected to the sentence being demanded despite some of the evidence being in favour of the journalists. Attorneys also stated that there was no tangible evidence concerning the charge of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”.

The fourth hearing of the trial took place on 22-23 February 2018. Acar made his defensive statement against the opinion of the prosecution as to the accusations at this hearing.

Acar stated that the newspapers he worked at were said to be “media outlets for the terrorist organisation”, but he never thought they were because these newspapers were legal institutions. Acar stated that he could not understand why the indictment cited as evidence his book regarding the Ergenekon trials. Acar stated that he attended over a hundred trial hearings and said the following: “If writing books about Ergenekon is a crime, then why has AKP deputy chairman Şamil Tayyar written 4-5 books about Ergenekon?” Many defendants at the hearing stated that “they were not active enough on social media to alter perceptions” against the charge of “altering perceptions”.

The final hearing of the trial took place on 7-8 March 2018. When asked for his final statement, Acar said: “I demand my acquittal. I conducted all my affairs lawfully at every organisation I worked at.”

The court ruled Mustafa Erkan Acar to be acquitted on the charges of “attempting to destroy the constitutional order by means of coercion and violence” and “attempting to destroy the Government of the Republic of Turkey by means of coercion and violence”.

Thus, Acar was acquitted of the charges in the second indictment that was prepared after the journalists who were released in the first hearing of the trial were remanded over the second investigation despite the initial release order.

However, Acar was sentenced to imprisonment of seven years and six months on charges of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”.

The court ruled that Acar should continue to be held in remand. Acar had been tried in remand for approximately 18 months when the local court ruled on his prison sentence.

The Appeals Process

Journalist Mustafa Erkan Acar’s attorneys launched an appeal against the imprisonment sentence at the court of appeals.

The appeals process was carried out by the 2nd Penal Chamber of the Istanbul Circuit Courts of Appeals. The Chamber delivered its ruling on 22 October 2018.

The appeal was rejected in substance. The Chamber found that the ruling of the local court was lawful according to the methods and procedures. It was asserted that “the evidence in the file was sufficient for establishing the crime”.

The Court of Cassation Process

Journalist Acar’s attorneys brought the ruling approved by the court of appeals before the Court of Cassation.

The appeals process was conducted by the 16th Penal Chamber of the Court of Cassation. The attorneys demanded that the appeals process be conducted by means of hearings. However, their demands were rejected. The Chamber delivered its ruling on 16 March 2020.

The imprisonment sentence concerning Mustafa Erkan Acar was approved by the Chamber.

The Court of Cassation ruled that the procedures concerning the journalists were carried out lawfully, all evidence was collected in accordance with the law, and the defensive statements were heard in full. It was stated that the ruling was based on unequivocal, consistent and non-conflicting data.

The imprisonment sentence concerning Mustafa Erkan Acar was then finalised. Acar had been in prison for three years and seven months when the imprisonment sentence was finalised.

Acar has been serving his sentence as a convict at Silivri Prison.

"Media Structure" Trial (Reasoned Judgement)

"Media Structure" Trial (The Court of Cassation's Judgement)

"Media Structure" Trial (Indictment)

"Media Structure" Trial (Indictment)

Contact: pressinarrest@gmail.com

Creative Commons License

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.