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PHR Calls for Immediate Release of Imprisoned Turkish Human Rights Leader

Chair of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey being held in pre-trial detention on trumped-up terrorism charges

For Immediate Release

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) today calls for the immediate, unconditional release of Şebnem Korur Fincancı, chair of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey and a forensic expert who has fought alongside PHR to end torture worldwide. On Monday, Turkish authorities detained Fincancı, along with author Ahmet Nesin and Erol Önderoğlu of Reporters Without Borders, on terrorism-related charges. PHR insists Turkish authorities release all three and drop all charges against them.

“Dr. Fincancı’s detention is a blatant attempt to silence the voice of a woman at the vanguard of human rights in Turkey and around the world,” said PHR’s director of programs, Widney Brown. “We are here to say that she and her cause cannot be silenced. And we at PHR won’t be silent while our friend and colleague is being held unlawfully for exercising the very rights she defends. Dr. Fincancı must be released immediately. Full stop.”

Fincancı was imprisoned after taking part in 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. Fincancı, Nesin, and Önderoğlu are being held in pre-trial detention over charges of disseminating “terrorist propaganda” under Turkey’s widely criticized anti-terror laws.

“These trumped up charges are part of a coordinated campaign in Turkey to silence any and all criticism,” said PHR’s Brown. “Turkey’s government has repeatedly used the very real threat of terrorism to squelch freedom of expression and other rights. These arrests cast a chill across all those who defend the rights of the powerless.”

Fincancı has spent the past quarter-century working to end torture. Alongside PHR, she helped draft the Istanbul Protocol, the global standard for carrying out torture-related investigations. She has trained a generation of doctors and scientists in Turkey and around the world in forensic investigative techniques, and her expertise contributed to the first-ever successful torture prosecution in Turkey.

The United Nations has repeatedly criticized the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over allegations of grave human rights violations, including violence and harassment against human rights defenders, journalists, and doctors who support victims of torture.

“President Erdoğan, the world is watching,” said PHR’s Brown. “Your government’s legitimacy is on the line. Release Dr. Fincancı and her colleagues. Dissent is not a crime: it is a fundamental part of a society that respects human rights.”

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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