Cihan Acar, a reporter for shuttered Bugün and Özgür Düşünce newspapers, was arrested on 26 July 2016 as part of a sweeping operation targeting journalists who worked for media outlets affiliated with the movement led by Fethullah Gülen, officially named the "Fetullahist Terrorist Organization/Parallel State Structure (FETÖ/PDY)" by the government.
Acar was indicted for "FETÖ/PDY terrorist group membership," a charge carrying a prison term between 7.5 years and 15 years.
The Istanbul 25th High Criminal Court agreed to release him on 31 March 2017, at the end of the first hearing of the trial, but Acar, along with 12 other defendants who were released by court, was rearrested before leaving the prison compound on new charges of “attempting to overthrow the government” and "attempting to overthrow the constitutional order."
Acar appeared before the second and third hearings of the "FETÖ media trial" on 27 April 2017 and 6 July 2017.
Release pending the conclusion of trial
On 16-18 August 2017, Acar appeared again before the Istanbul 25th High Criminal Court for the first hearing of the case in which he is charged with “attempting to overthrow the government” and "attempting to overthrow the constitutional order," facing two aggravated life sentences. The court ruled at the end of the three-day hearing to release Acar and one of his co-defendants, Bünyamin Köseli, under judicial control measures. Judicial control terms include a ban on traveling abroad and a requirement to report to a police station twice a month. The court also ruled to merge both case files.
During the hearing on 6 February 2018, the prosecutor submitted his final opinion, demanding prison terms for all but three defendants — Murat Aksoy, Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu and Muhterem Tanık — for “membership of a terrorist organization.” The prosecutor demanded that Acar and three other defendants who were released in earlier hearings be re-arrested based on the finalized charge against them.
The court issued its verdict in the case at the end of the final hearing held on 7-8 March 2018. Acar, along with 10 other co-defendants in the case, was convicted of “membership of an armed organization” to 6 years and 3 months in prison, though the court did not order his re-arrest. Twelve other journalists in the case were sentenced to 7 years and 6 months on the same charge.
On 22 October 2018, the 2nd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice rejected the appeals agianst the convictions of 25 defendants in the case. The regional court of appeals rendered its verdict without holding a public hearing despite the defense lawyers’ requests.
Supreme Court of Appeals judgment
The 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld the convictions of 17 journalists in the case publicly known as the “FETÖ media trial,” where 25 of the 26 defendants were convicted of terrorism-related charges in 2018. The court overturned the convictions of eight defendants in the case.
The Supreme Court’s verdict, which was made public on 12 May 2020 by the pro-government daily Yeni Şafak, was uploaded on the National Judiciary Informatics System (UYAP) on 8 June 2020, finally becoming official.
In its unanimous verdict dated 16 March 2020, the Supreme Court upheld the convictions of journalists Abdullah Kılıç, Bayram Kaya, Bünyamin Köseli, Cihan Acar, Cuma Ulus, Davut Aydın, Habip Güler, İbrahim Balta, Büşra Erdal, Hüseyin Aydın, Muhammed Sait Kuloğlu, Murat Aksoy, Erkan Acar, Mutlu Çölgeçen, Oğuz Usluer, Seyid Kılıç and Ufuk Şanlı.
Constitutional Court application
The Constitutional Court ruled that journalist Cihan Acar’s arrest on a different charge following his release in 2017 in the case publicly known as the “FETÖ media trial” violated his right to liberty and security and ordered that the journalist be paid TL 30,000 in compensation.
Ruling on Acar’s 2017 individual application on 27 February 2020, the Constitutional Court’s First Section ruled by a majority that Acar’s re-arrest on a different charge during the proceedings violated his right to liberty and security. Two judges on the panel wrote dissenting opinions, reasoning that “in respect of the applicant’s second arrest, rulings by first instance courts cannot be deemed baseless and arbitrary” and that the grounds cited for his re-arrest were “relevant and sufficient.” The top court unanimously rejected the rest of the claims in Acar’s application.
Trial on Article 301
Acar is also charged with "insulting the Turkish judiciary" under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) for an interview he made with lawyer Veysel Ok for Özgür Düşünce newspaper. Acar is not in detention as part of this trial.
At the final hearing of this trial on 12 September 2019, the 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul convicted journalist Cihan Acar and lawyer Veysel Ok of “publicly denigrating the judiciary” and sentenced each to five months in prison.
Acar returns to prison to serve sentence
On 23 June 2020, Cihan Acar surrendered to the Edirne Prison to serve the remainder of his 6-year-and-3-month sentence in the "FETÖ media trial," which became final on 8 June 2020 when the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld his conviction.