Professor Şebnem Korur Fincancı, an academic and the president of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV), was arrested on 20 June 2016 for participating in a solidarity campaign for the pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem, which was later closed under a statutory decree.
Fincancı was jailed pending trial on the charge of "terrorism propaganda" within the scope of a criminal investigation launched by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office for standing in as the editor-in-chief of the daily for a day as part of the “Co-Editor-in-Chief on Duty" campaign, which began on 3 May 2016, World Press Freedom Day.
Two separate indictments were issued on 22 June 2016 against Fincancı, Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) Turkey Representative Erol Önderoğlu and journalist Ahmet Nesin, both of whom were also detained as part of the same investigation.
The indictment against Fincancı and Önderoğlu was sent to the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court while the one against Nesin was sent to the 14th High Criminal Court. Nesin’s case was later merged with the case against Fincancı and Önderoğlu based on “legal and de facto connection.” The responsible managing editor of Özgür Gündem, İnan Kızılkaya, was named as a defendant in both files due to his responsibility regarding all news material published in the daily.
The indictments accused Fincancı, Önderoğlu and Nesin of “openly inciting to committing crimes,” “praising crime or a criminal” and “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization.”
The Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court, which accepted the indictment, ordered the relase of Fincancı and Önderoğlu. Fincancı was released pending trial from the Bakırköy Women’s Prison on 30 June 2016 after spending 10 days in pre-trial detention.
The first hearing of the case was held on 8 November 2016. While Fincancı and Önderoğlu were present in the courtroom, Nesin and Kızılkaya did not attend. In her written defense statement presented to the court, Fincancı rejected the accusations. Fincancı said she willingly participated in the solidarity campaign as a human rights defender during a time when the newspaper and its staff were undergoing investigations and detentions. The court rejected the lawyers’ requests for immediate acquittal and adjourned the trial until 11 January 2017.
Fincancı and Önderoğlu were in attendance at the second hearing on 11 January 2017. During the hearing, Kızılkaya’s file was separated and merged with the main Özgür Gündem trial. The court postponed the trial until 21 March 2017, awaiting Nesin’s defense statement.
The eighth hearing was held on 28 January 2019. Fincancı and Önderoğlu were in attendance. The court lifted the arrest warrant for Nesin after receiving his defense statement that was taken abroad and translated into Turkish and sent the case file to the prosecution for the drafting of their final opinion.
Submitting their final opinion on 27 February 2019, the prosecutor demanded sentence for all three defendants for “terrorism propaganda” under Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law (TMK), “incitement to commit crime” under Article 214/1 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) and “praising an offense and an offender” under TCK 215/1.
The 11th and final hearing of the case took place on 17 July 2019. Fincancı was in attendance to make here defense statement, accompanied by her lawyer. Her co-defendants Nesin and Önderoğlu were not in attendance. After hearing the final defense statements, the court delivered its judgment, acquitting Fincancı, Önderoğlu and Nesin of all charges.
On 20 October 2020, the 3rd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice reversed the acquittals. In its unanimous ruling, the appellate court held that the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court’s judgment was “against procedural law.”
The retrial of Fincancı and her co-defendants began on 3 February 2021. The court decided to abide by the appellate court’s reversal decision. Ruling to seek the Istanbul 23rd High Criminal Court’s permission to merge the case with the “Özgür Gündem main trial,” the court set 6 May 2021 as the date for the next hearing.
At the third hearing held on 1 February 2022, the court decided to wait for the response to letters rogatory issued for Nesin and to inquire about İnan Kızılkaya’s permanent address in order to issue a witness summons for the journalist.
The next hearing in the retrial is scheduled for 20 February 2024.
Academics for Peace trial
Fincancı was also accused of “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization” in a separate trial, where the accusation stemmed from the Academics for Peace declaration issued in January 2016. The first hearing of this trial took place on 6 March 2018 at the Istanbul 37th High Criminal Court. The court rejected Fincancı’s request for immediate acquittal and adjourned the trial until 4 October 2018.
At the end of the final hearing of this trial on 19 December 2018, the court sentenced Fincancı to 2 years and 6 months in prison on the charge of "terrorism propaganda." The sentence was not deferred and no reductions were granted.
Ruling on the individual applications filed by 10 academics who were sentenced in the Academics for Peace trials, the Constitutional Court held in its judgment dated 26 July 2019 that the trials violated the academics' freedom of expression. Accordingly, the Istanbul 37th High Criminal Court, which held a retrial on 7 July 2020, ruled for Fincancı's acquittal.
Trial on "insulting a public official" charge
Fincancı, who was elected as the Central Committee President of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) in September 2020, was charged with "insulting a public official" over a social media post she shared in 2013, during Turkey's nationwide Gezi Park protests.
The final hearing of this trial, overseen by Istanbul's Anadolu 42nd Criminal Court of First Instance, was held on 16 February 2021. After hearing Fincancı and her lawyer’s final defense statements, the Anadolu 42nd Criminal Court sentenced Fincancı to a judicial fine of TL 7,080 on the charge of “insulting a public official.”
Jailed pending trial on "propaganda" charge
Korur Fincancı was jailed pending trial on the charge of “terrorism propaganda” in October 2022 after calling for an investigation into allegations that the Turkish Armed Forces had used chemical weapons on PKK targets.
Concluding the trial on 11 January 2023, the Istanbul 24th High Criminal Court sentenced Korur Fincancı to 2 years, 8 months and 15 days in prison and ruled for her release based on the time she spent in remand and the length of the prison sentence she was given.
In January 2024, the 2nd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice, an appellate court, upheld the sentence given to Fincancı.