Şebnem Korur Fincancı, the head of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), who was arrested on charges of terrorism propaganda for her comments on the alleged use of chemical weapons in Turkey’s military operations in northern Iraq, stood trial on Friday.
At the first hearing of the case against the prominent forensics expert, Fincancı’s lawyers said that the statement given to any news channel by a scientist who has spent years fighting for human rights can only be considered within the scope of the public’s right to receive information.
Underlining that it was unfair for the prosecutor’s office to choose only five words from Fincancı’s seven-minute speech while the indictment was being prepared, the lawyers said, “You are making a trial with the indictment prepared by a prosecutor who is not objective, conducts a sloppy investigation and does not fulfil any legal requirements.”
Stating that the case process was carefully followed by international delegations, the lawyers argued that Fincancı’s statements were expert opinions and that there was no unlawful situation in her comments according to the decisions of the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
“Academic freedom is a scientific necessity, not a favour given to academics. It is within the scope of academic freedoms. This trial must end here,” the lawyers said.
After the defence arguments, the prosecutor demanded an upper-limit sentence for the crime of propaganda and the continuation of Fincancı’s detention.
“Prosecution’s opinion that seems to have come ready-made and ignores the defence arguments is not acceptable,” announced TTB on Twitter over the prosecutor’s demand.
Fincancı was arrested on charges of terrorist propaganda in late October after she commented on an online television programme about allegations regarding the Turkish military forces which might constitute a violation of international law.
The Turkish army is accused of using prohibited chemicals against Kurdish fighters during its military attacks in northern Iraq and human rights defenders worldwide have been calling on independent institutions to open investigations into those allegations.
Fincancı, a human rights defender known for her efforts to end torture, is a board member of the Turkish Human Rights Foundation (TİHV) and a member of the Human Rights Association (İHD).