Turkish medical chief convicted on terror claims

Turkish medical chief convicted on terror claims

The president of Türkiye’s medical association has been convicted for spreading “terrorist” propaganda after she called for an investigation into the alleged use of chemical weapons against Kurdish militants by the armed forces.

The court in Istanbul sentenced Sebnem Korur Fincanci, 63, to nearly three years in prison but released her while she appeals against the verdict.

She was arrested more than two months ago.

The forensic specialist and leading rights activist on pro-Kurdish media called for an independent investigation into claims that the army used banned chemical weapons against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq.

Fincanci is the latest campaigner to be convicted under Turkey’s wide-ranging “anti-terrorism” laws. She has spent much of her career documenting torture and other ill-treatment. She served as president of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey.

The Kurdish workers’ party, the PKK, which the EU and US label a terrorist organisation, released a video in October purportedly showing Turkish troops releasing a substance into a cave followed by its effects on two militants. The group identified 17 of its members allegedly killed in the last year by chemical weapons in the mountains of northern Iraq.

Türkiye strongly denied using chemical weapons against the PKK and Fincanci was accused of spreading terrorist propaganda and insulting the country.

She was convicted this week after just three hearings and without due process, her lawyers claim. Turks are rarely jailed for sentences under three years.

Fincanci told the court her trial was politically motivated, targeting democratic values and the freedom of expression. She quoted a Turkish poll suggesting “one out of every two people believes that people are in prison based on what they think”.

Fincanci supporters chanted “this is only the beginning, we will carry on fighting” and “the Turkish Medical Association will not be silenced” outside the court.

“In this country, killing people is not enough to keep people in prison, but giving your scientific opinion causes people to go to prison,” she said, according to the Media and Law Studies Association, a court-monitoring group.

On the pro-Kurdish Medya Haber TV, she commented on the PKK’s video and suggested a toxic gas may have been released and called for an investigation.

Emma Sinclair of Human Rights Watch in Turkey said Fincanci’s case “sends a strong message to everyone to be silent”.

Sinclair said she feared for other Medical Association of Turkey board members could face similar action if found to be members of a terrorist organisation.

Türkiye last year adopted a media law requiring jail terms of up to three years for reporting “false” information about national security that would trigger “fear and disturb public order”.

The PKK still terrifies Türkiye’s authorities. Picture credit: Flickr

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