SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: October 26, 2022

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):Istanbul University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Turkey

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On October 26, 2022, Turkish authorities raided the residence of and detained Şebnem Korur Fincancı, the president of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) and a professor of forensic medicine at Istanbul University. Fincancı was charged with spreading terrorist propaganda and insulting Turkey.

The week before her arrest, Fincancı participated in an interview with Medya TV, a news channel with links to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The PKK is a political organization that the Turkish government has categorized as a terrorist group. In the interview, she called for an investigation into the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Turkish military on the PKK. The military denied the allegations.

Fincancı was previously detained on terrorism charges in 2016 after participating in a campaign to support press freedom – read SAR’s report here – and again in 2018, after she signed a letter calling for a stop to state violence against civilians.

Fincancı was released from pre-trial detention on January 11, 2023, after she’d been sentenced to 2 years, 8 months and 15 days in prison, due to a pending appeal.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arrest and prosecution of a scholar for the nonviolent exercise of the right to freedom of expression and academic freedom — conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Turkey is a party. State authorities have a responsibility to refrain from restricting or retaliating against nonviolent expressive activity. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, arrests and prosecutions intended to restrict or retaliate against scholars’ expressive activity undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.