Turkish doctors’ chief convicted of terrorist propaganda amid claims army hit Kurds with chemical weapons

Turkish doctors’ chief convicted of terrorist propaganda amid claims army hit Kurds with chemical weapons
Spoke out: Sebnem Korur Fincanci. / evrensel, cc-by-sa 3.0
By bne IntelIiNews January 11, 2023

Sebnem Korur Fincanci, a forensic specialist who is head of Turkey's medical association, was on January 11 convicted of spreading terrorist propaganda over her call for an independent investigation into the alleged used of chemical weapons against Kurdish militants by the Turkish army.

Fincanci was sentenced to nearly three years in jail. However, under Turkish law, she was already eligible for release as people are rarely imprisoned in Turkey for sentences of under three years. It was expected that Financi would be freed imminently, more than two months after her arrest.

Rights groups have protested that her detention amounted to a bid by the authorities to silence her and other activists.

Fincanci, also a well-known human rights activist, was arrested after calling for a probe into claims that the Turkish military deployed banned chemical weapons against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq. Her comments on the matter were published by pro-Kurdish media.

The BBC's Zeynep Erdim was in court to hear Fincanci in a brief address state that her trial was politically motivated and was targeting democratic values and freedom of expression. Supporters of Fincanci chanted "this is only the beginning, we will carry on fighting" and "the Turkish Medical Association [TTB] will not be silenced", Erdim reported.

Emma Sinclair, head of Human Rights Watch (HRW) in Turkey, welcomed the fact that Fincanci was to be freed but said that her case "sends a strong message to everyone to be silent". Sinclair also said that she was anxious as regards other board members of the TTB. They could, she noted, face similar action to that experienced by Fincanci if portrayed as members of a terrorist organisation.

The TTB said in a tweet, apparently referencing upcoming national elections to be held by June, that Fincanci's return to the organisation meant she “will play our role at the turning point in front of our country”.

It added: “We will ensure that neither the TTB nor our country surrenders to the darkness!”

Last October, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), outlawed in Turkey as an insurgent terrorist organisation, released video footage that it said showed Turkish troops releasing a substance into a cave as well as its effects on a male fighter and a female fighter. The group also gave the details of 17 of its members whom, it said, had lost their lives recently to chemical weapons.

The Turkish government has strongly denied using chemical weapons against the PKK.

Fincanci’s approach to the matter prompted the prosecution in which she was accused of spreading terrorist propaganda and also insulting Turkey.

Her lawyers complained Fincanci did not benefit from due process during the investigation and trial.

Turkey last year adopted a controversial new media law. One aspect of it are jail terms of up to three years for the dissemination of false information about Turkish security that would cause "fear and disturb public order".

In the 2022 World Press Freedom Index, produced by Reporters without Borders, Turkey placed 149th out of 180 countries assessed.