For Immediate Release
The president of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, Şebnem Korur Fincancı, was released from a Turkish prison today, along with Erol Önderoğlu of Reporters Without Borders. Fincancı, Önderoğlu, and writer Ahmet Nesin were arrested earlier this month on terror-related charges for their participation in a press freedom campaign. Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) was part of a global campaign advocating for their release. Nesin remains in custody, and criminal charges against the three remain in place.
“We are incredibly relieved that today Şebnem – a close ally and friend of PHR – can go home,” said Christine Mehta, a researcher at PHR who led a recent investigation in Turkey. “But releasing her from prison isn’t enough. These ludicrous, trumped-up terror charges against her and her colleagues still stand. Prosecutors in Turkey must drop them immediately. ”
Fincancı, Önderoğlu, and Nesin were arrested and detained 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. They were being held in pre-trial detention for allegedly distributing “terrorist propaganda” under Turkey’s widely-denounced anti-terror laws.
“This week’s horrific attacks on Istanbul’s international airport demonstrate the very real threat terrorists pose to the Turkish people,” said PHR’s Mehta. “But dissent does not equal terrorism. Turkey’s government has long waged a campaign of intimidation against those who exercise their right to free speech in criticizing the country’s leadership. Confusing human rights defenders with radical extremists only weakens Turkey’s ability to counter violence.”
PHR has worked with Fincancı and her affiliated organizations for more than 20 years to end torture worldwide, together developing the Istanbul Protocol, the global standard for carrying out torture-related investigations, and training a generation of doctors and scientists in Turkey and around the world in forensic investigative techniques. Fincancı’s 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 for human rights violations, including violence against and harassment of human rights defenders, journalists, and doctors who advocate on behalf of victims of torture.
“Faced with multiple global pressures, Turkey can no longer afford to punish those who only seek to strengthen freedom and human rights,” said PHR’s Mehta. “If Turkey’s government truly seeks to be regarded as a rights-based society, it must treat those who fight for freedom and human rights with the respect all humans deserve.”
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.