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Journalist and chair of human rights foundation on trial

(BIANET/IFEX) - The chair of the Turkish Human Rights Foundation's (TIHV) board, Professor Sebnem Fincanci, and Gerçek Gündem (Real Agenda) website journalist Baris Yarkadas are facing prison sentences of up to two years and eight months for criticising Nur Birg, the chair of a committee at the Forensic Medicine Institute.

The case commenced on 15 January 2010 before the Kadiköy (Istanbul) 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance and continued on 5 March.

Fincanci and Yarkadas are being tried on charges of "insulting a public official via the press" under article 125/1-2-4 of the Turkish Criminal Code (TCK) based on an interview carried out on 22 July 2009 by web journalist Basak Günsever. The interview was entitled "Why did they abolish execution". Fincanci is on trial for the opinions she voiced in the interview, while Yarkadas was charged for publishing those opinions.

The hearing was attended by Yarkadas and his lawyer, Nalan Gonca Çelik, as well as Fincanci, who had a team of 20 lawyers pleading her case. The trial will continue on 21 July.

Dr. Fincanci informed the court that she completed a forensic medicine specialization at the Forensic Medicine Institute from 1985-1992. She became chair of the 1st Specialization Committee of the Institute in 1994. She gave the following statement in the hearing on 5 March: "When I was chair of the institute's specialization committee, I was removed from that position in 1996 because of a report documenting torture that we issued in the same year. I filed a court case and following a decision by the State Council I was returned to office in 1998.

"I was removed from office again on 19 January 2000 after incidents concerning prisons, although I had not issued any reports. Since then I have been working in the Department of Forensic Medicine at the Istanbul Medical School. At the same time, I am a member and was also the chair of the Forensic Medicine Specialists Association and I was secretary general of the Istanbul Medical Chamber for two years. We criticised the Forensic Medicine Institute several times at that time and issued statements about the institute. As the board chair of the TIHV I criticised the structuring and the assignment criteria of the Forensic Medicine Institute. This in no way constitutes an insult."

In the interview which is the subject of the trial, Fincanci was asked how Birgen obtained her current position. She replied: "It probably was a reward for her loyalty. There are investigations about reports made by the Medical Chamber Honour Council concerning torture because evidence of torture was hidden. Those reports probably gained her positive points on her record."

Yarkadas criticised mistakes in the indictment: "It is written as if we said Fincanci's words ourselves. This has to be corrected. There is no element of crime in the talk attributed to us. My objection only concerns the correction of the indictment".

Birgen has frequently been criticised by the media because of her medical reports.

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