Solidarity with Özgür Gündem Case
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.
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.
ACADEMICS FOR PEACE TRIALS
The petition “We will not be a party to this crime” was signed by 1128 academicians from 89 universities on 11 January 2016 calling for permanent solutions for peace and for an end to the violence targeting people of the region, especially during the curfews, after the resumption of the armed conflict following the collapse of peace process.
On January 10, 2016, 1,128 academics published a petition entitled ‘We will not be party to this crime’(Bu Suça Ortak Olmayacağız). They demanded the state to abandon its deliberate massacre and deportation of Kurdish and other peoples in the Kurdish in Sur, Silvan, Nusaybin, Cizre and Silopi and other places in the Kurdish regions
This petitionwas part of the Academics for Peace initiative, founded in 2012 in response to a Kurdish prisoners’ hunger strike. Hundreds of academics, from fifty universities, came together and decided to work for a peace process in Turkey. They wanted to contribute by sharing knowledge and producing information on topics like peacebuilding, education in native languages and the destruction of the environment through war.
Well over 2,000 academics have now signed the petition. Hundreds of them have been fired from their jobs, their passports have been cancelled and confiscated, several were physically and verbally threatened. Over 450 academics have been arrested and have stood trial. They we accused of ‘propagandising on behalf of a terrorist organisation’ under the Article 7/2 of the Turkish Anti-Terror Law No. 3713.
Despite the repression, threats and harassment, a great majority of academics have continued to stand behind their initial statement and collectively support each other.
On 26 July 2019, the Constitutional Court found that the right to freedom of expression was violated in the charging of ten academics for signing a peace petition. Following this ruling, the first academic was acquitted on 6 September 2019. As of January 8, 2020, the number of academics acquitted in 56 court cases is 567.
*Click here for current situation.
Prof. Füsun Üstel was released on July 22, 2019 by the suspension of the execution.
* Click here for the hearing statistics.