Continuing Detenetion for Prof. Dr. Fincancı at today’s first hearing
The trial against Prof. Dr. Şebnem Korur-Fincancı, the President of the Turkish Medical Association (TBB) and a forensic medicine expert, began today at the 24th High Criminal Court of Istanbul in which she is charged with “making propaganda for a terrorist organization”.
Many observers, politicians, medical doctors and rights defenders were present to observe the first hearing. Korur Fincancı was greeted with applause as she entered the courtroom.
Following a hearing that lasted approximately 5 hours, the court ruled to continue Korur Fincancı’s detention. The next hearing will be held on April 29, 2022 at 10:30.
Following her comments on the images regarding the alleged use of chemical weapons in military operations carried out by the Turkish Armed Forces in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, which were aired in October 2022 by the Kurdish television Medya Haber based in Europe, Korur Fincancı was first targeted on social media and then arrested.
Court allowed defence team only three lawyers
To demonstrate their solidarity with Korur Fincancı, present at the courthouse were many rights defenders, medical doctors, heads of medical chambers, HDP and CHP deputies, representatives of various civil society organizations and political parties, heads of bar associations in Istanbul, Izmir, Van, Diyarbakir, representatives from the USA, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Denmark and Austria consulates and international rights organizations.
To defend Korur Fincancı, more than 800 lawyers submitted their licence to the court. Referring to the post-military coup legislation which states that only three lawyers could defend the accused, the judge ruled that only three lawyers would be allowed to defend Korur Fincancı.
The hearing was delayed for a while and many people, including journalists, observers, medical doctors and heads of medical chambers were unable to fit into the small courtroom.
Lawyers demanded the hearing to be moved to a larger courtroom. Reminding that only three lawyers were allowed to make the defence, however, the judge said there was no need for the hearing to be taken to a larger hall.
Korur Fincancı was transferred to Istanbul in handcuffs
The military police in the courtroom built a human shield between Korur Fincancı and her lawyers. The lawyers’ objection on this matter was rejected.
When the president of the court addressed the accused as “sen” (“you”, in second person singular as opposed to second person plural, as in French “vous”, t.n.) the lawyers and the audience reacted. The presiding judge, in explaining his attitude, said that he was not a kind person.
The lawyer of the Ministry of National Defence, who was in the courtroom, requested to become a party in the case. This request was rejected by the court on the grounds that the Ministry was not harmed by the crime. Defence lawyers also reacted to this request.
After these tense exchanges, the hearing continued with Şebnem Korur Fincancı’s statement. Korur Fincancı, who was detained in Sincan prison in Ankara, said that she was brought to Istanbul for the hearing by a transfer vehicle and kept in handcuffs throughout a 5-hour journey. She stated that this situation was a violation of human rights and fair trial requirements.
Korur Fincancı: An independent investigation is necessary to give a diagnosis on the images
Korur Fincancı said that the principle of presumption of innocence has been violated since the very beginning, and that the arrest warrant for her was presented to the press before her lawyers. Referring to the indictment, Korur Fincancı explained that the prosecutor who prepared the indictment had insufficient knowledge of forensic medicine and she expanded upon the statement that was the subject of her trial.
“The medical evaluation I made on the symptoms visible in the video, which took me to the reasonable conclusion that ‘a toxic gas was obviously used’, is a ‘pre-diagnosis’. Because it is only possible to determine whether a prohibited weapon was used or not, after an examination is conducted at the scene of the incident, laboratory examinations are carried out of the samples taken and autopsies of the bodies are performed in the light of the Minnesota Protocol, the connection between the scene of the incident and the alleged incident is established, a chemical agent is detected, complete with effective documentation. Therefore, it is not possible to identify the culprits without an effective investigation.
“Therefore,” she continued, “the medical opinion I have stated in the program was but a preliminary diagnosis. A diagnosis requires an effective and independent investigation and documentation.”
Lawyers: No requirements were met during the investigation process
Then, lawyers Meriç Eyüboğlu, Gulan Çağın Kaleli and Hülya Yıldırım gave their statements. The lawyers explained that the statements subject to trial did not meet the requirements for the charge of “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” (Anti-Terorr Law Article 7/2). The lawyers claimed that their client was arrested after her statements that fall under academic and scientific expertise and freedom were targeted. They stated that no legal requirements were met during the investigation and prosecution process.
Eyüboğlu said, “My client said that the images appeared to give the impression of an involvement of a toxic agent, but also that independent committees should conduct an on-site examination of any deceased individuals to fully understand the matter. As she was talking about the need to conduct an on-site investigation, we cannot understand what our client is being accused of.”
Court: As it is understood that any judicial measure will be insufficient
Announcing his opinion after the lawyers, the prosecutor demanded that Korur Fincancı be penalized with the maximum penalty prescribed for the offense of “making propaganda for a terrorist organization”.
The lawyers took the floor against the prosecutor’s opinion and stated that there was no legal justification for the continuation of her detention.
Korur Fincancı said, “It is very difficult to be under arrest, but it is an invaluable blessing for a human rights defender. We have always been demanding for an examination into the prisons, which was never approved. Therefore, the fact that the state itself sent me to a prison is valuable.”
Claiming that the implementation of any judicial control measure would be insufficient, the judicial panel ruled to continue Korur Fincancı’s detention. The next hearing will be held on December 29, 2022 and Korur Fincancı will be held in Bakırköy Women’s Prison in Istanbul until that time.
PEN Norway will continue to monitor this outrageous, illegal targeting of our colleague and stand in solidarity with Prof. Korur Fincancı until she is cleared of all charges.