On April 12, Ahmet Şık, a Turkish journalist, was acquitted in the OdaTV trial, which began six years ago, but the courts will not let him leave prison. This last trial in the Ergenekon case was the final one in a series of court battles that began in 2007, resulting in the detention of 275 military officers and civilians. Though the Ergenekon case was ultimately dismissed in April 2016, due to a lack of evidence that the Ergenekon network existed, acquittals for the Oda TV trial were not issued for a full year.
Best known for being jailed in March 2011 for writing the Imam’s Army, an unpublished manuscript critical of the Gülen movement, Şık is currently being held on charges that he published pro-Gülenist propaganda in late 2016 in Cumhuriyet newspaper and Twitter. The Gülen movement, or Hizmet, is an organization led by the Muslim cleric, Fetuhllah Gülen, that stresses altruism and education. Since the July 15, 2016 coup attempt in Turkey, it has been labeled a terrorist group.
Şık spent one year and one month in pre-trial detention for the OdaTV case from 2011 to 2012, before being released without explanation days before the start of the trial. On December 29, 2016, he was dragged back to jail on charges of being allied with the so-called Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organization (FETO), based on his Cumhuriyet writings and tweets. He has been imprisoned since December 30.
The paradox of being arrested first for writing a book against Gülen, and then charged with being in league with the FETO, has not been lost on Şık, as was apparent from his court testimony on April 12.
Along with other columnists and executives at Cumhuriyet, Şık faces 7.5 to 11 years of prison time in this case. There may still be hope for Şık, however. Lawyers from the paper filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on March 8, 2017 after Turkey’s Constitutional Court failed to recognize their December 26, 2016 appeal of a lower court decision to jail Şık and his co-defendants pre-trial. The ECHR announced on April 13 that it will fast-track the case.
The ECHR has been unable to examine thousands of other applications submitted by Turks detained after the coup attempt, since most of these cases have not been reviewed by the Constitutional Court, which has received 100,000 cases since then– and typically only processes 20,000 a year. That the ECHR is taking on this case may provide some protection against the post-coup clamp down on all sectors of Turkish society.
As for Şık himself, he is a symbol of what happens to Turkish journalists who have been caught in an impossible web of accusations, but refuse to bow to self-censorship or external pressure.