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Journalist and human rights defender acquitted

(BIANET/IFEX) - The president of the Turkish Human Rights Foundation, Prof. Sebnem Korur Fincanci, and journalist Baris Yarkadas, administrator of the Gercek Gundem ("Real Agenda") news site, were acquitted of insult charges in the case filed by Prof. Nur Birgen, Chair of the Institute for Forensic Medicine's leave in 3rd Specialization Board.

The Kadikoy (Istanbul) 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance acquitted Fincani and Yarkadas on 15 September. The charges stemmed from an interview Yarkadas held with Fincanci, which was published on the Gercek Gundem website on 22 July 2009. The defendants were accused of "insult of a public person via the media". Fincanci and Yarkadas were each facing imprisonment of up to two and a half years.

Birgen had been under criticism for her medical reports prior to the 2009 trial. In one of her reports, she suggested releasing detained Ergenekon defendants. In another report, she spoke out negatively about detainees in F-type prisons who were suffering from Wernicke Korskoff syndrome.

In 1995, Birgen prepared a report about seven people who had been tortured, arguing that they did not display signs of torture. As a consequence the Medical Chamber suspended her from her position. Later on, this penalty was voided because her status as a "public official" was applied in court. Instead, Birgen was appointed head of the 3rd Specialization Board.

In reports prepared by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the United Nations Organization, Birgen was referred to as "a bad example of a physician regarding torture".

Birgen was appointed head of a project for educating judges and prosecutors on torture. In response, the Turkish Medical Association, the Association of Forensic Medicine Specialists and the Turkey Human Rights Foundation withdrew from this project.

Birgen also signed a report that attested that former special operations manager Ibrahmis Sahin, a Susurluk convict and Ergenekon trial defendant, suffered from "memory loss".

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