Şebnem Korur Fincancı, a famous human rights activist and head of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), has been ordered by a Turkish court to pay a fine for insulting a public official in a social media post about then-Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2013.
Fincancı, who was tried by an İstanbul court, was fined at the last hearing on Tuesday due to a tweet she posted during the Gezi Park protests of 2013, which were sparked in protest of government plans to demolish a park in İstanbul’s Taksim neighborhood and subsequently turned into countrywide anti-government protests.
Fincancı will pay a fine of TL 7,080 ($1,000) in line with the court ruling.
In her defense Fincancı said the tweet she posted on June 15, 2013 includes criticism of the then-prime minister and was not aimed at insulting him. She said she stands behind her remarks because they fall within the limits of freedom of expression.
“It is a politician who is being criticized here. And criticizing is also a right of citizenship,” she said.
At the time Fincancı was head of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV). In her tweet she criticized the police for the use of excessive force against the protestors as well as Erdoğan, who said he ordered the police officers to use force.
Eight protestors were killed and thousands of others were injured during the violent confrontations between the police and the protestors. Erdoğan praised the use of force by the police to suppress the protests, saying, “The police wrote a legend.”
Commenting on the ruling following the hearing, Fincancı said the government is in dire need of money due to its poor handling of the economy and is thus imposing fines on its critics to raise money rather than jailing them.
Fincancı is frequently targeted by the Turkish government and subjected to judicial harassment for standing up against widespread human rights violations in the country, which reached new heights following a failed coup in July 2016. The Turkish government launched a massive crackdown on non-loyalist citizens following the coup attempt under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.
Fincancı’s TTB is also under government scrutiny due to its criticism of the “poor” and “untransparent” way the Turkish government has handled the coronavirus pandemic.
Thousands of people face judicial proceedings in Turkey due to their criticism of the president, the government and government officials on insult charges.