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. 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 next hearing will be held on May 6, 2021.
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”.