Professor Şebnem Korur Fincancı, an academic and the president of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV), was arrested by an Istanbul court on June 20, 2016, for participating in a solidarity campaign launched for the shuttered pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem.
An investigation was launched into Fincancı for standing in as the editor-in-chief of the daily for a day as part of the “Co-Editor-in-Chief on Watch Campaign,” which began on May 3, 2016, World Press Freedom Day, and lasted for 100 days. Fincancı was jailed pending trial on the charge of “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” after giving her statement at the Istanbul Courthouse.
Two separate indictments were issued on June 22 on Fincancı, Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) Turkey Representative Erol Önderoğlu and writer Ahmet Nesin, both of whom were also detained and jailed pending trial as part of the same investigation.
The indictment against Fincancı and Önderoğlu was sent to the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul while the one concerning Ahmet Nesin was sent to the 14th High Criminal Court. Nesin’s case file was later merged with the case against Fincancı and Önderoğlu on the grounds of the “legal and de facto connection” between the cases. The responsible managing editor of Özgür Gündem, İnan Kızılkaya, was a suspect in both indictments due to his responsibility regarding all news material published in the daily.
The indictments accuse Fincancı, Önderoğlu and Nesin of “openly inciting to committing crimes,” “praising crime and criminals” and “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” as per article 7/2 of the Law on Fight Against Terrorism (TMK) and article 214 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).
The 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, which accepted the indictment, ruled in favor of the objection to Fincancı and Önderoğlu’s detentions on remand, ordering their release. Fincancı was released pending trial from the Bakırköy Women’s Prison on June 30, 2016, after spending 10 days in detention.
The first hearing of the trial against Fincancı and her co-defendants was held on November 8, 2016, at the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
While Fincancı and Önderoğlu were present at the courtroom, Ahmet Nesin and İnan Kızılkaya did not attend the hearing.
In her written defense statement presented to the court, Fincancı rejected the accusations against her. “I don’t accept the suspension of my sentence. I don’t accept considering myself guilty,” she said.
Fincancı told the court that she willingly participated in the Özgür Gündem 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 acquittal, adjourning the trial to January 11, 2017.
Fincancı and Önderoğlu were again present at the second hearing on January 11, where Nesin was unable to attend for being overseas. During the hearing, Kızılkaya’s file was separated and merged with the main trial against Özgür Gündem. The court postponed the trial to March 21, 2017, to hear Nesin’s defense statement.
During the third hearing, the court issued an arrest warrant against Nesin in order for his defense statement to be taken, and adjourned the trial to June 8, 2017.
During the fourth hearing, the court ruled to await for the execution of the arrest warrant against Nesin and send an order to Nesin’s overseas address, once again postponing the trial to December 26, 2017.
Speaking during the fifth hearing on that date, Fincancı expressed her concern over the trial. “I find the judiciary’s approach and its restrictive attitude worrying as a human rights defender,” she told the court.
Noting the expert opinions presented to the court by RSF and Article 19, lawyers reiterated their demand to apply to the Constitutional Court for the abolition of the TCK article 214 that serves as the grounds for the accusations.
In its interim ruling, the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul rejected the request to apply to the Constitutional Court regarding the unconstitutionality of TCK article 214. The court ruled to await for the execution of the arrest warrant against Nesin and postponed the trial to April 18, 2018.
Fincancı is also standing trial on the charge of “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” in a separate case for signing the Academics for Peace petition of January 2016, titled “We will not be a party to this crime.”
The first hearing of that trial took place on March 6, 2018, at the 37th High Criminal Court of Istanbul. The court rejected Fincancı’s request for immediate acquittal, and adjourned the the trial to October 4, 2018.