Turkish journalist held, accused of spreading propaganda: lawyer

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A Turkish court remanded journalist Ahmet Sik in custody pending trial on Friday after he was accused of spreading the propaganda of various groups, an opposition lawmaker and a lawyer said.

Sik works for Cumhuriyet, one of the few newspapers still critical of the government after Turkey purged tens of thousands of people, largely from the state apparatus, in the wake of a coup attempt last July.

“Handcuffs have been slapped again onto journalism, reporting and the right to obtain information. Ahmet Sik has been remanded in custody,” lawmaker Sezgin Tanrikulu, from the main opposition party CHP, tweeted.

Lawyer Efkan Bolac said Sik had been accused of spreading propaganda for the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the far-left DHKP-C and what Ankara describes as the Gulenist Terrorist Organisation (FETO).

FETO refers to supporters of the U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen who are accused of being behind the attempted military coup on July 15 in which more than 240 people were killed.

The state-run Anadolu news agency said Sik was also accused of insulting the state, judiciary, military and the police.

The DHKP-C, which has carried out armed attacks in Turkey, and the PKK, which has fought for three decades for autonomy for Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast, are considered terrorist groups by Turkey, the United States and European Union.

At least 81 journalists are imprisoned in Turkey, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), and more than 130 media outlets have been shut since July. Most of those held are accused of spreading terrorist propaganda.

More than 110,000 civil servants, police, academics and others have been detained, suspended or dismissed over suspected links to Gulen. Around 40,000 have been formally arrested.

Turkey’s Western allies have been alarmed by the crackdown, but Ankara says it is justified by the threat posed by Gulen’s network. Gulen denies the accusations against him.

Sik is a long-standing critic of Gulen. In 2011 he was jailed for a year over a biography of the cleric, one of hundreds of imprisoned soldiers and journalists who said they had been the victims of Gulenist judges and prosecutors. The convictions were later overturned and the cases thrown out.

Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Janet Lawrence