Ahmet Şık, an investigative journalist for Cumhuriyet daily, was taken into custody in late December 2016 and was sent to prison by a court days later. The court decision to imprison him pending trial said that Şık had made "statements that amount to propaganda for FETÖ/PDY and the PKK armed terrorist organizations," despite the apparent contradiction stemming from the fact that they are dissimilar groups. The criminal investigation against Şık was later merged with another one conducted against Cumhuriyet journalists and executives.
In the indictment, Şık and his colleagues from Cumhuriyet were charged with "aiding an armed terrorist organization without being a member." The prosecution argued that Şık attempted to “legitimize” the PKK and the far-left DHKP/C with his interviews with persons from these two groups.
The Cumhuriyet trial got under way on 24 July 2017 at the Istanbul 27th High Criminal Court. Şık, who presented his defense statement on day three, said: “You must have understood from what I’ve told you so far that this is not a defense statement. Rather, this is an accusation."
At the end of the first week of sessions, on 28 July 2017, the Istanbul 27th High Criminal Court released seven Cumhuriyet employees and but kept Şık and four others in prison. The court also stated that some elements in Şık’s defense statement could “constitute a crime” and decided to file a criminal complaint with the Istanbul Prosecutor’s Office.
The next hearing in the trial took place on 11 September 2017. A report on the hearing can be found here.
The third hearing in the trial was held on 25 September 2017. Three witnesses were heard at the hearing. Columnist Kadri Gürsel was released while Şık remained in pretrial detention.
On 25 December 2017, at the fifth hearing, Şık was interrupted by the presiding judge as he was making his defense statement. The judge said Şık's statement was "political" and would not be allowed. When Şık wanted to carry on with his statement, the presiding judge expelled him from the courtroom for "disrupting the proceedings" under articles 203 and 204 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CMK). Şık was not allowed back in for the rest of the day. "Depending on majoritarianism as opposed to pluralism, the current government treats and views every citizen who does not agree with them as terrorists," Şık said before he was interrupted. "There is a judicial system, under the control of the current government, that transforms all suspicions of terrorism into outrageous charges. There is the media which hides facts and consequently, are accomplices in ruining our common future. There is a silent majority which remains in a web of silence as everything happens in front of their eyes because they are scared for their well-being or afraid that their comfortable lives will be disrupted. Within this current situation, under a dictatorial regime which feeds off violence and is based on cruelty and oppression, naturally the only that thrives is evil."
Release pending trial
Ahmet Şık and Cumhuriyet's Editor-in-Chief Murat Sabuncu were released at the end of the hearing held on 9 March 2018. Akın Atalay, the chairman of the newspaper’s executive board, remained behind bars. Şık and Sabuncu were released from Silivri Prison later that night after spending more than 400 days behind bars.
During the seventh hearing on 16 March 2018, the prosecutor submitted his final opinion, asking the court to convict Şık and 12 other Cumhuriyet staffers of "aiding an armed terrorist organization without being its member."
The final hearing of the Cumhuriyet trial took place on 24-25 April 2018. The 27th High Criminal Court of Istanbul convicted 14 Cumhuriyet journalists and executives, including Ahmet Şık, of "aiding a terrorist organization without being its member." Şık was sentenced to 7 years and 6 months in prison.
Regional court upholds convictions
On 18 February 2019, the 3rd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice, an appellate court, upheld the convictions in the Cumhuriyet trial, saying it did not find "any substantial or procedural violations" in the ruling or any "shortcomings in the evidence or proceedings."
Constitutional Court judgment
On 26 April 2019, the Constitutional Court announced that its Plenary would take up Şık's individual application, along with those filed on behalf of nine other journalists, including his co-defendants in the Cumhuriyet trial, Murat Sabuncu, Akın Atalay, Kadri Gürsel and Önder Çelik, on 2 May 2019. At the end of the first day of deliberations, the court rejected the applications of Ahmet Şık, Akın Atalay, Murat Sabuncu, Önder Çelik and Bülent Utku, while it ruled that Kadri Gürsel's pre-trial detention violated his right to personal liberty and security. The court rendered all decisions through a majority vote.
Supreme Court of Appeals overturns convictions
On 12 September 2019, the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals overturned the convictions rendered in the Cumhuriyet trial. On 16 July 2019, the Office of the General Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals had requested the reversal of the convictions against Orhan Erinç, Akın Atalay, Murat Sabuncu, Hikmet Çetinkaya, Aydın Engin and Ahmet Şık and the acquittal of all defendants except Şık. The 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals ruled in line with the judicial opinion by the General Prosecutor, overturning former Cumhuriyet staffers’ convictions on the charge of "aiding a terrorist organization." The Chamber held that Şık should instead be charged with "legitimizing the acts of terrorist groups" and "publicly denigrating state institutions."
Şık and 12 other former columnists and executives of Cumhuriyet daily appeared once again before the 27th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 21 November 2019 for their retrial, ordered by the Supreme Court of Appeals.
In its unanimous ruling, the court acquitted Kadri Gürsel but ruled against the Supreme Court of Appeals concerning the rest of the defendants, including Şık. The court once again convicted all 12 of "aiding a terrorist organization without being its member."
Indicted twice based on single complaint
Şık is charged with "Publicly denigrating the Turkish nation, the state of the Turkish Republic, the organs and institutions of the state" (Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code) over his Twitter posts in a separate case launched upon a complaint filed in 2015 by a reporter from the Anadolu news agency (AA). In January 2018, a new indictment was issued against Şık, based on the same complaint. Istanbul’s 17th Criminal Court of First Instance merged the two indictments. The sentence sought for Şık became 3.5 years in total.
On 18 September 2018, the Istanbul 17th Criminal Court of First Instance ruled for the case to be abated because Şık became a Member of Parliament in Turkey’s 24 June 2018 parliamentary elections.
The European Court of Human Rights issued its judgment concerning Ahmet Şık’s application on 24 November 2020, finding a violation of the rights to liberty and security and freedom of expression. The court ordered that Turkey pay Şık 16,000 euros in compensation. In its chamber judgment, the European Court held unanimously that Şık’s pre-trial detention as part of the “Cumhuriyet trial” violated his right to liberty and security (Article 5/1 of the European Convention on Human Rights). The Court ruled by a majority that Şık’s freedom of expression (Article 10) was violated, with a partly concurring and partly dissenting opinion by the Turkish Judge Saadet Yüksel.