The second hearing of the trial against Prof. Dr. Şebnem Korur-Fincancı, the President of the Union of Turkey’s Medical Associations (TBB) and a forensic medicine expert, was held today at the 24th High Criminal Court of Istanbul. Fincancı is on trial for the alleged crime of “making propaganda for a terrorist organization”.
Fincancı’s lawyers said the trial was not fair or objective and requested the recusal of the judicial panel. The court rejected this request and ruled to continue Fincancı’s detention in prison.
Korur Fincancı was first targeted on social media and then arrested following her comments on images she had been shown in relation to the alleged use of chemical weapons in military operations carried out by the Turkish Armed Forces in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region. Her comments were broadcast in October 2022 by the Kurdish television Medya Haber, based in Europe,
A wall of military police around Fincancı
Seven miliatary police accompanied Fincancı as she was brought to the court room, and she stood encircled by five of them throughout the trial.
More than 80 lawyers were present to defend Fincancı. The hearing was observed by a large crowd of medical doctors, rights defenders, and journalists, as well as diplomats from the Swiss and EU delegations and the German Consul General. Parliamentary representatives included the HDP co-chairman as well as HDP and CHP party deputies. The courtroom proved to be too small for the large number of observers.
Lawyer Meriç Eyüboğlu requested that the hearing be held in a larger hall to protect the right to a fair trial. Erkan Şenses, the President of the Batman Bar Association noted that the Court’s decision to limit the number of lawyers representing Fincancı to three was against the law. He stated that this limitation had become a law after the coup attempt and did not apply to the prosecution of the offence of making propaganda for the terrorist organization.
The prosecutor restated his previous opinion. The lawyer of the Ministry of National Defence restated his request to become a party in the case, which had been rejected by the Court in the previous hearing. This request was rejected once again and the Ministry’s lawyer took a seat among the defence lawyers and followed the hearing. Unable to enter the hall due to the large number of observers, some of Fincancı’s lawyers objected to this situation, but the judge rejected this objection, declaring that “he would decide whoever would be allowed in the court room”.
Fincancı: Lung damage? I wonder what kind of a propaganda impact it has
Following the objections of the lawyers as to the formalities, the Court proceeded to hear Fincancı’s statement. Saying that her actions were not an offence but a part of her responsibilities as a medical doctor and a citizen, Fincancı stated “I wonder how one could interpret a medical assessment as an act of propaganda and what kind of a possible propaganda impact lung damage could have”.
Financı mentioned the ruling party AKP officials who targeted her and said:
“We criticised them based on science but they accused us of terrorism, high treason, using improper language. If I am a terrorist, I wonder which organization I am a member of. The Human Rights Foundation of Turkey? Association of Palestinian Prisoners? International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRTC)? The President of the Republic calls me a terrorist in front of the public. Then how can members of the judiciary dare to think differently?
“Our struggle is about bringing new lives into the world and about letting them live their lives with dignity. And I don’t think this is a crime, and therefore I demand acquittal.”
The lawyers requested the recusal of the judicial panel.
Quoting some of the statements made by the judge in the courtroom, Fincancı’s lawyers claimed that the court conveyed the impression that it has been operating under the instructions of the prosecutor. “It seems everything has been already predetermined in the prosecutor’s opinion and we are the small actors just making a statement here.”
Restating that Fincancı was on trial because she demanded an effective investigation against the allegation that chemical weapons were used, Fincancı’s lawyers expressed their disbelief that the case in question was being handled objectively and fairly as the unlawfulness and smear campaigns have been going on since the start of the investigation. Lawyer Eyüboğlu said, “We are here today with the expectation that you will hand down a sentence anyway,” and claimed that they requested a recusal because of these reasons.
After the lawyers’ request for the recusal of the judicial panel, the hearing was adjourned for 20 minutes.
After the break, the presiding judge dismissed the recusal request “on the grounds that it was overdue and intended to prolong the hearing”.
The Court decided to continue Fincancı’s detention. The next hearing is on January 11, 2023. PEN Norway will be represented in the courtroom on January 11, 2023.