Ece Sevim Öztürk

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Police in Istanbul detained Ece Sevim Öztürk, the chief editor of Çağdaş Ses, a news website supportive of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), on June 8, 2018, the independent news website Bianet reported.

An Istanbul court on June 20, 2018, ordered Öztürk to be held in pretrial detention on accusations of "knowingly and willingly aiding a [terrorist] organization," her outlet reported.

Öztürk was detained shortly after the ultranationalist news website Odatv and pro-government daily Yeni Şafak accused her of being involved with the so-called FETÖ group, which the government blames for the failed coup attempt in 2016, Çağdaş Ses reported.

In a statement released on June 13, the journalist’s lawyers said she was not questioned during her first week in custody. The lawyers said that Öztürk reported on the failed coup and the subsequent legal trials using sources such as court documents.

According to a seven-page indictment, Öztürk is charged with "making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization" and "willingly and knowingly aiding a [terrorist]" organization.” The prosecution argued that Öztürk produced misleading reports about the trials and judicial members dealing with the cases related to the failed attempted coup. Evidence cited against Öztürk include a documentary she produced and released on Twitter, where she has over 69,000 followers; other Twitter posts; and statements on the TV debate show “Deniz Kuvvetlerinin En Karanlık Günü: 15 Temmuz” (The Darkest Day of the Naval Forces: July 15) aired on TGRT Haber.

According to the indictment, Öztürk’s work was an attempt to “manipulate public opinion about the coup plotters and those dealing with the aftermath of the coup, or to support allegations that the coup was staged so the government could grab more power and eliminate rivals.”

The prosecution cited comments Öztürk made in her documentary and tweets posted between February and May 2018 that were similar to content shared on social media by FETÖ supporters as evidence of her connection to the group. The indictment said the journalist released her documentary less than a month before the June 2018 election, as an attempt to hurt the government’s reputation.

On the first day of trial in Istanbul on November 1, 2018, Öztürk pleaded not guilty, her outlet reported. Öztürk’s lawyer, Efkan Bolaç, told CPJ that the court said his client’s actions “exceeded journalistic curiosity.”

The court ruled that Öztürk should remain in custody pending the outcome of the trial and scheduled the next court session for December 11, 2018, according to reports.