Şebnem Korur Fincancı sentenced to prison term

The President of the Medical Association Şebnem Korur Fincancı has been sentenced to prison in Istanbul for her demand for an investigation into Turkey's use of chemical weapons in Kurdistan. At the same time, the arrest warrant was cancelled.

The president of the Turkish Medical Association, Prof. Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı, has been sentenced in Istanbul to two years and eight and a half months imprisonment for "terror propaganda". At the same time, the arrest warrant against the renowned forensic scientist was cancelled.

Fincancı was arrested in October last year because she spoke out in a television interview with the Kurdish broadcaster Medya Haber in favour of an independent investigation into the use of chemical weapons by the Turkish army in Kurdistan. In the interview, the world-renowned forensic pathologist and anti-torture expert stated that she had watched footage of victims of a suspected chemical weapons attack. Their symptoms apparently indicated that the persons - two guerrilla fighters - had been exposed to a toxic gaseous substance. The allegations that this could have been poison gas would therefore have to be examined according to international standards. Fincancı also criticised in the broadcast that a delegation of the medical peace organisation IPPNW was denied access to the regions affected by Turkish chemical weapons use. The Turkish Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office therefore accused her of "propaganda for a terrorist organisation" and demanded up to seven and a half years imprisonment.

The trial provoked international protest. Five UN Special Rapporteurs called on Turkey in early November to release the arrested President of the Medical Association immediately and not to use anti-terror laws as a means of intimidation. Similar statements were made by IPPNW, the World Medical Association and numerous other organisations. The German Medical Association also called for Fincanci's release. Its president, Klaus Reinhardt, called for the case to be dropped and said that doctors should intervene if there is a suspicion of human rights violations.

Today's trial was watched by numerous people from home and abroad. Because the courtroom was too small, dozens of people stayed outside. Fincancı said at the trial that the great solidarity made her happy: "To witness this is very valuable. Whatever the verdict, what is important is the sense of belonging, awareness and collective existence." The Medical Association (TTB) was established with constitutional guarantee seventy years ago for this very reason, Fincancı explained, "This year we will celebrate the legal establishment seventy years ago. The purpose of this process is to create a climate of fear that is tantamount to banning freedom of expression, thought and science. But this attempt is in vain. Fear is of no use to anyone. The TTB is our organisation. If no one can mouth the word chemical weapon anymore, it is an indication of the climate of fear that has been created."

Şebnem Korur Fincancı was born in Istanbul in 1959. She is a renowned forensic scientist and chairperson of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) and a board member of the Human Rights Foundation in Turkey (TIHV). In 2018, she was awarded the Hessian Peace Prize. Before her arrest, she spoke about the human rights situation in Turkey at the Concerned Persons Conference in Cologne. Despite a lynching campaign instigated against her for her demand for an independent investigation into chemical weapons attacks by the Turkish army, she subsequently returned to Istanbul and was arrested. She had previously informed the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office through her legal counsel that she was willing to testify in the criminal proceedings against her. It is largely thanks to her courage that the Turkish war crimes in Kurdistan have become an international issue.