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).
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 March 31, at the end of the first hearing of the trial, but Acar, along with 12 other defendants who were to be released, 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 terrorism case on 27 April and 6 July. On 16-18 August, 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 on judicial control Acar and another co-defendant, Bünyamin Köseli. Judicial control terms include a ban on traveling abroad and a requirement to report to a police station twice a month.
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 in 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 announced 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, was sentenced on the charge of “membership in an armed organization” to 6 years and 3 months in prison, though the court did not order his re-arrest.
In October, the appeals against prison sentences given to 25 defendants in the case were rejected by an appellate court. The 2nd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice rendered its decision on 22 October. The court made the ruling without a public hearing despite the defense lawyers’ requests for a hearing.
Convictions against the journalists are now expected to be taken to the Supreme Court of Appeals.
Acar is also charged with “insulting the Turkish judiciary” under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code for an interview he had with Veysel Ok, a human rights lawyer, for Özgür Düşünce newspaper. Acar is not in pretrial detention as part of this trial.