Posts Tagged ‘Şebnem Korur Fincancı’

In Turkey: two journalists and activist acquitted of terrorism charges – there is hope

July 17, 2019

Today, 17 july 2019, a Turkish court has acquitted two journalists and one human rights activist of terrorism charges. The three defendants had been accused of spreading terrorist propaganda for their work with a Kurdish newspaper, which has since been closed down.  Applause erupted in the courtroom as the verdict was read out, the BBC’s Mark Lowen reported from Istanbul.

Erol Onderoglu, the Turkey representative for press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF), journalist Ahmet Nesin, and Sebnem Korur Fincanci, chairwoman of Turkey’s Human Rights Foundation, were arrested in June 2016. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/11/05/turkish-human-rights-defender-and-forensic-doctor-sebnem-korur-fincanci-honoured/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/28/eren-keskin-in-turkey-sentenced-to-prison-and-more-to-come/]

RSF’s annual press freedom index ranks Turkey 157th out of 180 countries, in part because Turkey is the world’s largest jailer of journalists. Last year, Turkey imprisoned 68 journalists in total – the highest of any country in the world.

Mr Onderoglu, Mr Nesin and Ms Fincanci guest-edited the Kurdish paper Ozgur Gundem in 2016, which saw them accused by the authorities of making propaganda on behalf of the banned Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK). They each faced 14 years in prison. Two months after their arrest, in August that year, the Ozgur Gundem offices were raided and then permanently shut down. In her closing remarks, before the verdict was read out, Ms Fincanci told the court: “The only crime here was a crime against freedom of speech.”

In a statement released in April, Mr Onderoglu said: “I regard this trial as a part of an effort to intimidate journalists and rights defenders in Turkey. It is a heavy burden for anyone who yearns for democracy to be tried based on their professional activities or solidarity.’ “We are not concerned with being pushed around or harassed by the threats of persecution like the Sword of Damocles. Our concern is for the entire society; it is our concern for the erosion of a sense of justice which holds us all together.

RSF responded to the acquittal on Twitter, saying it was “deeply relieved“. The organisation also called for the scrapping of another trial against Mr Onderoglu, which is due to start in November. Christophe Deloire, RSF’s secretary general, tweeted that the verdict was “a great victory for justice and press freedom, both of which are violated on a daily basis in [Turkey]”. “It represents a huge hope for all the journalists who remain arbitrarily detained,” he added.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-49017181

Turkey, not a good place to be a lawyer or a judge

February 7, 2019

On 6 February 2019 is became known that a public prosecutor has sought the maximum prison sentence of 15 years for each of 33 lawyers on charges of membership in a terrorist organization due to their alleged links to the faith-based civic Gülen movement, the T24 news website reported on Tuesday. On Tuesday the trial of 53 defendants, 52 of whom are lawyers, continued at the Ankara 22nd High Criminal Court.

[Following the coup attempt, the Turkish government launched a massive crackdown as a result of which more than 150,000 people were removed from state jobs while in excess of 50,000 others were jailed and some 600,000 people have been investigated on allegations of terrorism.]

According to data compiled by independent monitoring site The Arrested Lawyers’ Initiative, 555 lawyers have been arrested since July 15, 2016 and 1,546 were under prosecution as of January 24, 2019. Two hundred sixteen lawyers have been sentenced to a total of 1,361 years in prison. Some of the arrested lawyers were reportedly subjected to torture and ill treatment. Fourteen of the detained or arrested lawyers are presidents or former presidents of provincial bar associations.

A report titled “Incarceration of Turkish Lawyers: En Masse Arrests and Convictions (2016-2018)” previously revealed that lawyers have particularly been targeted simply due to the identity or affiliations of their clients, all this spite of the basic principles of the independence of lawyers. [see e.g. https://lawyersforlawyers.org/en/basic-principles/ and also https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/03/09/independence-of-the-legal-profession-subject-of-side-event-on-16-march-2017/]

Judiciary

And it is not limited to lawyers. A Turkish court sentenced a judge who previously won an award for human rights to 10 years in prison over links to the network Ankara says orchestrated an attempted coup in 2016, the state-owned Anadolu news agency said on Friday. Murat Arslan, who has been detained for 22 months, was convicted of membership in an armed terrorist organisation, after prosecutors charged him with use of the encrypted messaging app ByLock, Anadolu said. Arslan has denied the charges and said any evidence that he had used the app was “fabricated”, Anadolu said.

The government says the outlawed app was widely used by followers of the U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom it blames for the attempted coup that saw rogue soldiers commandeer tanks and aircraft, attacking parliament and killing some 250 unarmed civilians. The Council of Europe human rights body in 2017 gave Arslan, who was detained at the time, the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize, a decision that prompted Turkey to say it would cut back its funding to the body. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/10/18/turkey-angry-after-pace-havel-prize-is-awarded-to-jailed-judge/]

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/04/18/european-commission-states-that-turkey-is-taking-major-steps-away-from-the-eu/

Torture

In the meantime Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı, the 2018 winner of the Hessian Peace Prize for her work documenting human rights abuses in Turkey, said torture had become systematic. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/11/05/turkish-human-rights-defender-and-forensic-doctor-sebnem-korur-fincanci-honoured/]

Korur Fincancı was one of more than 1,000 Turkish academics who signed a 2016 petition calling for peace after a two-year ceasefire between the government and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) broke down and security forces used tanks and artillery to crush attempts by the militants to seize towns and cities across the mainly Kurdish southeast. Now the head of Turkey’s Human Rights Foundation has been sentenced to 30 months in prison for signing the petition and for her contribution to a report prepared by her foundation on the Turkish military’s activities in the southeastern town of Cizre. 

……The figures show an alarming trend that Korur Fincancı said pointed to systematic rights violations. “In the year 2017, more than 5,000 people across Turkey applied for legal aid from the Human Rights Association on the basis that they’d been tortured. More than 500 applied to representatives of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey to be diagnosed … for torture,” she said.  The number of applicants remained high in 2018, with more than 2,600 people who said they had been tortured applying for legal aid and 558 applying for treatment in the first 11 months of the year.

Fincancı

….Korur Fincancı she said the fight against torture must extend beyong medical treatment to preventative measures, and that means educating the public.

…Meanwhile, security forces have opened 26,000 cases against suspects they say resisted arrest. “After police launch cases against them, people become hesitant to open (torture) cases … or the withdraw them. Thus the judiciary protects the police, the use of torture with legal repercussions becomes more entrenched, and the police believe they are doing their duty under this protection,” said the doctor.

With the introduction of emergency rule after the coup, the purge and arrest of public officials has come to be counted as part of a struggle against terrorism, providing another layer of protection for security officers who commit torture and other infractions. “And this arrangement applies to civilians – it’s the same as telling security officers we are in a state of civil war and their actions will be ignored,” Korur Fincancı said. “And that’s a very dangerous situation.

State of emergency

Anyway, ending the state of emergency in Turkey has not ended repressive rule under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Human Rights Watch observed on 17 January 2019 in its World Report 2019. Prolonged and arbitrary jailing of critics on bogus terrorism charges has become the norm in Turkey. Turkey’s parliamentary and presidential elections in June 2018 took place in a climate of media censorship and with some members of parliament and one presidential candidate jailed. Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) retained control of a weakened parliament through a coalition. And with the election, in which Erdoğan was reelected, Turkey’s presidential system of governance, approved in a 2017 constitutional referendum, entered fully into force. “Any hope that the end of the state of emergency six month ago would mark a return to respect for human rights has been dashed,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Erdoğan government’s hounding of its critics and opponents has dismantled Turkey’s rule of law framework and turned justice on its head.

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/turkey-sentences-detained-judge-who-won-human-rights-award-to-10-years–anadolu-says-11141758
https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/01/17/turkey-state-emergency-ends-not-repression
https://ahvalnews.com/torture/award-winning-rights-activist-says-torture-systematic-turkey

Turkish human rights defender and forensic doctor, Şebnem Korur Fincancı, honoured

November 5, 2018

Şebnem Korur Fincancı

Şebnem Korur Fincancı, a Turkish human rights defender and forensic doctor, was on Friday awarded the Hessian Peace Prize, given each year to an individual who rendered outstanding service to furthering mutual understanding among countries and peace. Korur Fincancı was granted the award for her efforts for the rehabilitation of torture victims as well as for the research and documentation of torture, a statement from the award committee said.

Korur Fincancı is chairwoman of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV), one of the first human rights organizations established in the country following the 1980 military coup. She is also a leading international expert on torture documentation and a former member of the executive committee of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT). She is also co-writer of “Istanbul Protocol,” a universal work on standardizing investigation and documentation of traces of torture.

Turkish authorities on June 20, 2016, arrested her on charges of disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization, along with the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) representative Erol Önderoğlu and author Ahmet Nesin. The three had joined a solidarity campaign defending the editorial independence of Özgür Gündem, a paper aligned with Turkey’s Kurdish minority and frequently critical of the Turkish government. Korur Fincancı and Önderoğlu were released after 10 days. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/07/03/two-of-three-turkish-human-rights-defenders-released-awaiting-trial/]

Korur Fincancı was earlier awarded the “Human Rights Prize” of the Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) in 2017 and the Hrant Dink Prize in 2014.

https://stockholmcf.org/turkeys-top-torture-documentation-expert-sebnem-korur-fincanci-receives-hessian-peace-prize/

Two of three Turkish human rights defenders released awaiting trial

July 3, 2016

A Turkish court on Thursday 30 June 2016 released a prominent press freedom advocate and leading human rights defender, two of three activists put under pre-trial arrest on June 20 for participating in a solidarity campaign with a pro-Kurdish daily newspaper. [see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/06/23/turkey-outcry-over-detention-of-human-rights-defenders-is-even-russia-too-much/]

Sebnem Korur Fincanci, president of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, and Erol Onderoglu, Turkey’s representative to Reporters Without Borders, are to remain free pending trial on charges of “propaganda for terror organization PKK,” or the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency. The first hearing is scheduled for November 8. A different court is handling the case against writer and journalist Ahmet Nesin and there has been no decision yet on the possibility of his release pending trial, according to Anadolu.

The three had participated in a solidarity campaign taking turns as co-editors in support of Ozgur Gundem, a pro-Kurdish publication subject to multiple investigations and lawsuits.

Source: Human rights and media activist released in Turkey – Watertown Public Opinion: Europe

Turkey: outcry over detention of human rights Defenders – even Russia joins in

June 23, 2016

An academic and two journalists who play a key role in Turkey’s human rights movement have been jailed pending investigation into spurious allegations of spreading terrorist propaganda. Human Rights Watch, Reporters without Boarder, Front Line, and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (a joint program of FIDH and OMCT), among others, have raised serious concern and demanded their immediate release.

Ahmet Nesin, Şebnem Korur Fincancı and Erol Önderoğlu at the court house in Istanbul hours before being jailed pending investigation into spurious allegations of “making terrorist propaganda.” 
Ahmet Nesin, Şebnem Korur Fincancı and Erol Önderoğlu at the court house in Istanbul hours before being jailed pending investigation into spurious allegations of “making terrorist propaganda.” © 2016 private

An Istanbul court on 20 June, 2016, accepted a prosecutor’s request for them to be placed in pretrial detention on suspicion of having committed terrorist offenses. They are Erol Önderoglu, who is the Turkey representative of Reporters Without Borders and a journalist with the independent news website Bianet; Professor Şebnem Korur Fincancı, an academic at Istanbul University’s forensic medicine department and head of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey; and Ahmet Nesin, a writer and journalist.

The decision to demand the detention of Önderoğlu, Fincancı, and Nesin is a shocking new indication that the Turkish authorities have no hesitation about targeting well-known rights defenders and journalists who have played a key role in documenting the sharp deterioration in human rights in the country,” said Hugh Williamson, HRW’s Europe and Central Asia Director. “

The three were among 44 journalists, writers, and activists who participated in a solidarity campaign for media freedom in which each of them acted as a symbolic co-editor-for-a-day at the pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem in Istanbul. The government sees the newspaper as hostile to it and as a result has placed it under immense pressure.

Jailing a world-renowned journalist and human rights defender such as Erol sends a very powerful signal of intimidation to the entire profession in Turkey. It’s a new, unbelievable low for press freedom in Turkey,” Johann Bihr, head of the Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk at RSF, told CPJ. At least 14 journalists were imprisoned in Turkey on December 1, 2015, when CPJ last conducted its annual census of journalists jailed around the world. [see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/03/20/turkey-fair-trial-human-rights-lawyers-expression-l4l/]

Front Line Defenders has more information on these individuals: Sebnem Korur Fincanci (https://frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/sebnem-korur-fincanci)  who also received the International Hrant Dink Award for her human rights work. Erol Önderoğlu (https://frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/erol-onderoglu)  and Ahmet Nesin (https://frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/ahmet-nesin).

While the NGO reactions are expected, more remarkable is the reaction from Russia which (in the good company of the USA, the UN and the EU) has condemned the crackdown on Turkey’s press freedom: Read the rest of this entry »