Ece Sevim Öztürk, the editor-in-chief of the news website Çağdaş Ses, was arrested in Istanbul on 8 June 2018 as part of an investigation launched by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.
Known for her critical coverage of the 15 July 2016 coup attempt, Öztürk was accused of “sharing posts supportive of ‘FETÖ’ on social media in the aftermath of the 15 July coup attempt.” Turkish authorities blame US-based cleric Fethullah Gülen and his network, now officially called FETÖ, for the failed coup.
After 12 days in police custody, Öztürk was questioned by a prosecutor on 20 June and referred to the Criminal Judgeship of Peace on Duty with a request for her imprisonment pending trial. The prosecutor charged her with “knowingly and willingly aiding a terrorist organization without being a part of its hierarchical structure.” The judgeship jailed Öztürk and sent her to the Bakırköy Women’s Prison.
Öztürk appeared before the 37th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 1 November 2018 for the first hearing of her trial on the charge of “aiding a terrorist organization” on account of her journalistic work and her social media posts.
Making her defense statement during the hearing, Öztürk told the court that as an investigative journalist she had been trying for a year to unravel the less explored parts of the 15 July coup attempt. Öztürk said she wrote in her news stories about the shortcomings of the judiciary, but that she did not aim to harm the reputation of the courts.
Also speaking about her social media posts for which she is indicted, Öztürk said those were her personal opinions concerning rights violations such as lengthy detention periods, and an exercising of her right to freedom of expression.
Öztürk’s lawyer Efkan Bolaç told the court the indictment did not include any evidence to link Öztürk with a criminal organization and requested that his client be acquitted and released.
The prosecution then requested for the continuation of Öztürk’s detention.
Announcing its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ordered the continuation of Öztürk’s pretrial detention and adjourned the trial until 11 December 2018.
Öztürk remained behind bars at the Bakırköy Women’s Prison in Istanbul until the second hearing of her trial.
At the end of the second hearing, on 11 December 2018, the trial court announced its verdict, convicting Öztürk of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” and handing down the journalist a prison sentence of 3 years, 1 month and 15 days. The court also ruled for her release pending the appeal process but imposed on Öztürk an international travel ban.