Updated: 11/25/2022 - 12:25

Forensic physician Şebnem Korur Fincancı, who has spent years struggling for human rights, is the Chair of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TIHV). She is one of the founders of the foundation and the Turkish Penal Code Association. Fincancı was also elected as the Central Council President at the 72nd Elected Grand Congress of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) held on September 27, 2020. Korur Fincancı has stood trial at the Istanbul 37th Heavy Penal Court for signing the petition of the “Academics for Peace”. The case has had a different trajectory than the rest of the Academics for Peace cases and reached the verdict stage. On the fourth hearing held on 13th December 2018, "The interview given by the defendant to Özgür Gündem newspaper on 12 December 2018; her interview to Evrensel newspaper on 21 December 2015; and preliminary survey report prepared by the defendant on limited observation during her visit to Cizre on 3 March 2016 as the chair of TİHV have been added to her file as evidence." The case file of Korur Fincancı, who has been sentenced to 2 years and 6 months in prison without any reductions or suspension in the final hearing of the case held on 19 December 2018, will be considered by the Regional Court of Justice, the court of appeal. In the meantime, she has “mandatorily” retired from her duty at the Forensic Medicine Department of Istanbul University Cerrahpaşa Faculty of Medicine because of her prison sentence. Devoting her professional life to the investigation and documentation of torture as well as the struggle against it, Korur Fincancı has become one of the milestones in Turkey in that regard. Preparing reports on cases of torture and writing on medical ethics in the 1990s, when torture was prevalent in Turkey, she was met with the oppression and preventions by the state. After her report on the defendants in the court case involving the assassination of Uğur Mumcu, she declared that she has been threatened by official authorities, and a secret document demanding her dismissal was revealed. During Mehmet Ağar’s term as Minister of Justice, she carried out an active struggle to prevent the Institute of Forensic Medicine from becoming a state institution where documents were systematically destroyed as in the Susurluk case. In 1996, she took part in postmortems from mass graves in the Kalesija region of Bosnia on behalf of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal. In 1999, she was among the authors of the Istanbul Protocol document recognized by the United Nations as a standard set of assessment of torture. She later also lectured in various countries on the implementation of the protocol. In 2000, she took part in the international program organized by the Physicians for Human Rights in South Africa, and in 2002, in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Sexual Violence Against Women Research and Handbook project. On behalf of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture (IRTC), she traveled to Bahrain disguised as a tourist and collected tissue samples from the body of a young man whose remains were discovered at sea, claimed by police to have drowned. She brought the samples to Turkey, and in the autopsy she carried out, determined that he had been murdered under torture in detention as his family had claimed. She has found evidence on the torture carried out by Adil Serdar Saçan, the former Director of the Organized Crime Branch. Her application to intervene on the grounds that her telephone had been tapped by the Ergenekon organization and her personal information had been filed, becoming the only intervening party in the Ergenekon case. Korur Fincancı also participated in the Editors-in-Chief on Watch campaign that was launched in solidarity with the Özgür Gündem daily. Along with the RSF Turkey representative Erol Önderoğlu and journalist-writer Ahmet Nesin, Korur Fincancı was arrested on 20 June 2016 for having participated in the campaign and accused of “making terrorist propaganda. She was released on June 30, 2016. At the hearing held on 17 July 2019, the court acquitted all of them. The prosecutor appealed against the verdict of acquittal on 10 September 2019. After the Constitutional Court's decision for the retrial of the Academics for Peace, the hearing of Prof. Şebnem Korur-Fincancı was held at İstanbul Courthouse 37th Heavy Penal Court on July 7, 2020. The court ruled for the acquittal for Korur Fincancı.

TTB Presidency and targeting

Prof. Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı participated in the 72nd Elected Grand Congress of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) held on September 27, 2020 from the list of the "Active Democratic TTB" group and was elected as the President of the Central Council for the term 2020-2022. AKP President and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan targeted Fincancı and TTB at his party's group meeting on October 14, 2020, and said, “Since when can those who are involved in terrorism take over an important organization like TTB? TTB and some such professional organizations are clearly in violation of the Constitution. We will do a similar work of multiple bar associations .”

The verdict of acquittal given in the solidarity case with Özgür Gündem, which was appealed by the prosecutor, was overturned by the appellate court on 3 November 2020. 3rd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Courthouse stated that the acquittal verdict of Erol Önderoğlu, Şebnem Korur Fincancı and Ahmet Nesin by the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court was against the procedure. The retrial of Fincancı, Önderoğlu and Nesin began again on February 3, 2021 at the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court. At the first hearing, the files were requested to be combined with the file numbered 2020/51 at the 23rd Heavy Penal Court. The Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) made a call for solidarity for the next hearing on September 30, 2021.

A large group of human rights advocates, non-governmental and professional organizations were in front of the courthouse in support of Fincancı, Önderoğlu and Nesin on September 30, 2021. At the hearing, the court board decided to write an order for Ahmet Nesin's defense to be taken by rogatory letter, and to issue a notification to summon the witness İnan Kızılkaya to the hearing. 

At the hearing on October 19, 2022, it was seen that judge Murat Bircan, who was revealed to be a candidate for parliamentary candidate from the AKP in 2018, was in the delegation. The lawyers then demanded the refusal of the judge. The court sent the file to the Istanbul 14th Heavy Penal Court, which is a higher court, for the lawyers' request to be evaluated. The next hearing will be held on February 1, 2023.

Şebnem Korur Fincancı was also sued for the crime of "insulting a public official" for a social media post she made about Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during the Gezi Park protests (2013). Fincancı, in her defense at the Istanbul Anatolian Courthouse 42nd Criminal Court of First Instance, said, "I was on duty as a doctor in the infirmary in Gezi Park the night I tweeted the case. The cops used tear chemicals extensively in the infirmary and we had to transport the wounded. On the same day, the prime minister said in his speech in Sincan that he gave the order himself. Upon these statements, I felt the obligation to define what happened as a "massacre", both as someone who witnessed what happened there and as a human rights defender, " she said. The court decided on February 16, 2021 that Fincancı will be punished with a fine of 7,800 Turkish lira for "insulting a public official". On March 17, 2022, the Anti-Terrorism Department of the General Directorate of Security announced that it had filed a criminal complaint against Fincancı, who participated in the program organized by Erkam Tufan Aytav on his YouTube channel. As a reason, it was claimed that there was an arrest warrant for Erkam Tufan Aytav and that he was a fugitive FETO member.

In October 2022, Şebnem Korur Fincancı said in a TV program she attended that accourding to the footages of Fırat News Agency showing the last moments of the killed PKK members, she thought that chemical gas was used targeting the nervous system. Fincancı called for independent committees to conduct an investigation. As of October 20, 2022, a smear campaign was launched against Fincancı from pro-government media outlets. He was accused and targeted for slandering the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), making terrorist propaganda and lying. On the same day, Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office launched an investigation against Fincancı on charges of "making propaganda for a terrorist organization" and "insulting the Turkish nation, the State of the Republic of Turkey, the institutions and organs of the state".

On October 24, 2022, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan targeted Fincancı and the TTB in the press statement he made after the cabinet meeting, "The judiciary regarding the President of the Turkish Medical Association has taken action. Steps will be taken regarding both this person and this institution. We have instructed that the legislative work on the transition to a new structure in professional organizations, especially the Medical Association, should be accelerated. If necessary, we will ensure that this name is changed by legal regulation," he said.

On October 25, 2022, during his party's group speech at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, Devlet Bahçeli, Chairman of the Nationalist Movement Party, targeted Şebnem Korur Fincancı and demanded Turkish Medical Association to be closed and Fincancı stripped of her citizenship.

Fincancı was detained in Istanbul on the morning of October 26, 2022. Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office made a statement on the subject and announced that she was detained on charges of 'making propaganda for a terrorist organization'.

Fincancı was transferred to the Ankara Courthouse 3rd Criminal Judgeship of Peace with a request for arrest after the completion of the proceedings at the Ankara Security Directorate Anti-Terror Branch. Fincancı was arrested on October 27, 2022 and placed in the Sincan Closed Women's Prison.

Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office has also prepared a lawsuit for the dismissal of Fincancı and the TTB central administration. The case will be heard at the Ankara 31st Civil Court.

On November 3, 2022, 582 lawyers appealed to the Criminal Court of First Instance on Duty against the detention decision, but the Ankara 49th Criminal Court of First Instance rejected the objection on the grounds that the measure was proportionate.

The referral letter sent to the Criminal Judgeship of Peace by the prosecutor's office conducting the investigation on November 10, 2022 with the request for Fincancı's arrest was repeated and turned into an "indictment". The criminal charge is to make 'terrorist organization propaganda', which is regulated in article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law. 

Ankara 4th High Criminal Court, which accepted the indictment first, decided to send the file to the Istanbul courts without authorization, citing the place of the alleged crime and the address of residence. On November 25, 2022, an indictment was prepared against Fincancı by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office, demanding a prison sentence of 7 years and 6 months for "making propaganda for a terrorist organization".

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