The European Court rules by a majority that Şık’s pre-trial detention as part of the “Cumhuriyet trial” violated his freedom of expression, with a dissenting opinion by the Turkish Judge
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.
Ruling that Şık’s arrest was not based on reasonable suspicion, the Court wrote in their judgment that the reports and interviews for which Şık had been arrested “[…] amounted to the exercise of Convention freedoms, and did not support or advocate the use of violence in the political sphere or indicate any wish on the applicant’s part to contribute to the illegal objectives of terrorist organisations, namely to use violence and terror for political ends.” The Court held that Şık’s articles could not constitute grounds for charging him with the criminal acts in question.
Concerning Şık’s claim in respect of Article 10, Judge Yüksel wrote: “With regard to case-law of the Court, the opening of criminal proceedings against the applicant in the present case could be seen as justified. I do not wish to prejudice the outcome of the criminal proceedings pending before the domestic courts. Thus, in my opinion, it is premature to rule on those charges and there was no need to examine separately the interference with Article 10.”
The Court unanimously held that there had been “no violation” of the right to a speedy review of the lawfulness of detention (Article 5/4), saying a period of 13 months and seven days was “justified by the exceptional caseload of the Constitutional Court following the declaration of the state of emergency.”
The court ruled by a majority that there had been no violation of Article 18 -- limitation on the use of restrictions on rights. The Court held that Şık “had not established beyond reasonable doubt” that his pre-trial detention had been ordered for a purpose not prescribed by the Convention.
Şık, currently an independent lawmaker, was arrested on 30 December 2016 on allegations of “terrorism propaganda” and “aiding a terrorist organization” over his work as an investigative journalist with Cumhuriyet newspaper. His reports and interviews published in Cumhuriyet and his social media posts were held as evidence against him. The investigation file against Şık was later merged with the file against Cumhuriyet executives and columnists.
The application on behalf of Şık was filed with the European Court of Human Rights on 9 May 2017.
Şık remained behind bars for 15 months as part of the “Cumhuriyet trial” until he was released in March 2018 by an interim ruling of the trial court, which, at the end of the proceedings, sentenced Şık to 7 years and 6 months in prison for “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member.”
In September 2019, Şık’s conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court of Appeals, which held that Şık should have been charged with “legitimizing the acts of a terrorist group” and “insulting the Turkish nation, the state of the Turkish Republic and the organs and institutions of the state.” At the retrial, the Istanbul 27th High Criminal Court refused to comply with the Supreme Court’s judgment and once again convicted Şık and 11 of his co-defendants of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member.” The case file is currently pending before the Plenary Assembly of the Supreme Court of Appeals.