Persecution of Dr Şebnem Korur Fincancı continues in Turkey

Şebnem Korur Fincancı, elected president of the Turkish Medical Association, remains imprisoned after her arrest in October, as the professional organization faces pressure from the government

January 06, 2023 by Peoples Health Dispatch
Şebnem Korur Fincancı Turkey
Health activists protest for the release of Dr Şebnem Korur Fincancı. (Photo: TMA)

Turkish physician and forensic expert Şebnem Korur Fincancı remains imprisoned after having been arrested in late October 2022 for allegedly spreading terrorist propaganda. Her arrest was followed by two court hearings, with a third announced for January 11. It is as yet unclear whether there will be a court ruling after this hearing or whether the case will continue to be pursued in the criminal court.  

Shortly after her arrest, Dr. Fincancı was transported from Istanbul to Ankara, a move that has been interpreted by many as an attempt at intimidation by separating her from her family and friends. Ahead of the hearings, she was transported back to Istanbul by road, adding to the physical strain that she has already been undergoing due to the imprisonment. This has again been interpreted by many of Dr. Fincancı’s supporters as a further attempt to dishearten and weaken her readiness to oppose the charges. 

Sources close to the Turkish Medical Association (TMA) emphasize that Dr. Fincancı remains in good health and strong spirits, despite the awful living conditions she has been facing while in custody. These include confinement to extremely small spaces and difficulties in access to basic necessities such as water and medication. Particularly, in the case of Dr. Fincancı, she was unable to procure water supplies over the holiday season as the prison canteen was closed. 

The living conditions in Turkish prisons have drawn widespread criticism, especially when it comes to political prisoners—who often cannot access adequate care or are forced to live in conditions that worsen their health status. While the need exists to ensure decent living conditions for all prisoners, the case of Dr. Fincancı remains of high interest to many international organizations and global health advocates, and solidarity actions are expected to take place on the day of her next hearing.

Parallel crackdown on Turkish Medical Association

In addition to the charges brought against Dr. Fincancı, all of the TMA is currently facing a crackdown on its legitimate bodies. Near the end of last year, the government opened a new investigation into all members of the TMA Central Committee, accusing them of being members of a terrorist organization. While no action has been taken yet, members of the TMA warn that this could change overnight.

At the moment, a large part of the pressure against the TMA is being applied through court cases. The TMA already finds itself involved in a court case whose main aim is to remove its legitimately elected representatives and, likely, appoint temporary representatives into its ranks. If this were to happen, there would still remain the legal obligation to organize actual elections to add permanent representatives into TMA bodies. 

The court case against the TMA Central Council will take place in Ankara on January 10, a day before Dr. Fincancı’s own hearing in Istanbul.

In spite of the pressure being applied in the cases against Dr. Fincancı and the TMA, health professionals have announced actions in Istanbul and Ankara on the days the hearings are scheduled for. 

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