The court rules to keep Şebnem Korur Fincancı, who is on trial for “terrorism propaganda,” imprisoned pending trial. Defendant’s lawyers requested the recusal of the panel of judges
TANSU PİŞKİN, İSTANBUL
The second hearing in the trial of Prof. Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı, President of the Central Council of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) on charges of “terrorism propaganda” was held at the İstanbul 24th High Criminal Court on 29 December 2022.
Korur Fincancı has been in pre-trial detention since 27 October for calling an investigation into allegations that the Turkish Armed Forces had used chemical weapons against PKK targets. Korur Fincancı and her lawyers attended the hearing which P24 monitored. Presidents and representatives of bar associations, CHP and HDP MPs and representatives of national and international human rights organizations were also present as observers.
As in the previous hearing, many observers could not enter the courtroom, which was too small. The court once more denied the request by Şebnem Korur Fincancı’s lawyer Meriç Eyüboğlu to relocate the hearing to a larger courtroom to accommodate observers before beginning the defense against the accusations.
Ministry of National Defense lawyer reiterated their request to join case as co-plaintiff
The prosecutor repeated their final opinion on the case they presented at the 23 December hearing of the trial and claimed that Korur Fincancı had actively participated in the propaganda activity of the PKK/KCK terrorist organizations during her appearance on the TV program and requested conviction of the impugned crime.
The lawyer for the Ministry of National Defense, whose request to join the case as co-plaintiff was denied in the previous trial and who was given a turn to speak before Korur Fincancı’s lawyer, repeated their request. The court again denied the request to join the case.
Korur Fincancı’s lawyer and Batman Bar Association President Erkan Şenses said they had an objection to the procedure before discussing the accusations and objected to the limit of three defending lawyers speaking that was imposed at the previous hearing. Şenses said that the limit on the number of lawyers was unlawful and requested the court to re-evaluate its decision. The court unanimously ruled to deny the request.
“I am a gadfly pestering the state”
Beginning her statements as to the accusations, Şebnem Korur Fincancı thanked the prosecutor and said, “You have made the indictment simpler, so it seems I can explain my subject area well, yet you still could not avoid plagiarizing.”
In her defense statement, Korur Fincancı said: “From the start, we have been hearing things that make us things you are under directions. During the first hearing, strong security measures were taken around the courthouse. This was an attempt to affect your decision. The indictment and the opinion of the prosecution is an outcome of this attempt. The true purpose of this trial can be found in all governments viewing the Turkish Medical Association, which has been an independent and regulated organization since its legal establishment, as a thorn in their side.
“When I was elected president of the Turkish Medical Association, the president called me a ‘terrorist.’ If I am a terrorist, I would like to know which organization I belong to as a terrorist. Is it the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, human rights associations in Israel and Palestine, or other international human rights organizations against torture? I am a gadfly pestering the state. Not just in Turkey, but wherever in the world a state commits a crime, I will continue to make it my business. For as long as states commit crimes, I will continue to act as a gadfly and to search for the truth.
“We should not forget that a burning desire for revenge against another study of mine is the case here. In one of the basements they claimed terrorist were sheltering during the 2015 curfews, I found a jawbone that belonged to a 10-year old child. This is the reason why the state wants to get rid of the Turkish Medical Association and of me.”
Korur Fincancı then read out a poem by Melih Cevdet Anday and finished her defense by saying “I do not think I have committed a crime and I will continue with my struggle.”
Korur Fincancı’s lawyers requested the recusal of the panel of judges
Beginning their defense against the accusations, lawyers Şevin Kaya and Barış Yavuz said that the accusations were unfounded and requested the release of Korur Fincancı.
Speaking last against the accusations, lawyer Meriç Eyüboğlu said that the court had denied even their requests regarding procedure without justification and that the court was no longer acting objectively. Stating that they challenged the panel of judges, Eyüboğlu requested that they recuse themselves from the case.
Court rules to continue pre-trial detention
The court denied the request for recusal on the grounds that “it had not been stated timely and was intended to prolong the trial.”
Announcing its interim order, the court ruled to keep Korur Fincancı in pre-trial detention on the grounds of “continued strong suspicion of crime regarding the defendant, reasonable time of remand not having been surpassed, the inadequacy of alternative measures to remand at this stage of the trial and judicial control measures being inadequate given the reasons for the trial.”
The next hearing is scheduled for 11 January 2023.
Background of the case
Speaking to the broadcasting organization Medya Haber in October 2022, Şebnem Korur Fincancı said she had examined the footage of allegations of the use of chemical weapons by the Turkish Armed Forces in its military operations and said, “It is clear that a toxic-poisonous gas that directly affects the nervous system was used. Although their use is banned, we see them used in conflicts.”
Prof. Dr. Korur Fincancı said that international conventions necessitated an investigation by independent delegations in the region and said, “International conventions must be implemented, and the principles of the Minnesota Protocol must apply on what sort of an investigation needs to be carried out regarding such claims arising under the Geneva Convention, which bans the use of chemical weapons.”
Following these statements, Prof. Dr. Korur Fincancı was targeted by pro-government media outlets while President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Minister of National Defense Hulusi Akar released statements denying the use of chemical weapons. The Ankara Chief Prosecutor’s Office then began an investigation into Prof. Dr. Korur Fincancı on charges of “terrorism propaganda” and “denigrating the state of the Republic of Turkey, the institutions and organs of state.”
Korur Fincancı, who was expected to provide a statement as part of the investigation was arrested in a police raid on her home on 26 October and taken to Ankara, where she was imprisoned pending trial for “terrorism propaganda” on 27 October.