Amnesty calls arrest of top doctor on ‘terror’ charges an ‘appalling abuse of power’

Prominent London-based rights group Amnesty International has condemned the arrest of the head of a leading doctors’ union in Turkey on terrorist propaganda charges, describing the arrest as an “appalling abuse of power” and calling for her immediate release, Turkish Minute reported.

Şebnem Korur Fincancı, 63, chairperson of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), a forensic expert and a prominent human rights activist, was taken into custody at her home in İstanbul on Wednesday and arrested in Ankara on Thursday where she was brought for questioning.

Her arrest was prompted by a call she made urging a probe into the Turkish army’s alleged use of chemical weapons against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq.

“Jailing this leading human rights defender simply for calling for an independent investigation into the alleged use of banned weapons is an appalling abuse of power. Arbitrarily imprisoning Şebnem Korur Fincancı has nothing to do with justice and everything to do with silencing her and sending a chilling message to others,” said Esther Major, Amnesty International’s senior research advisor for Europe.

Major said detaining Fincancı contradicts Turkey’s obligations to protect human rights defenders in the course of their vital work.

“Instead of harassing and persecuting her, the Turkish authorities should instead take steps to ensure she can conduct her work free from fear and intimidation. Şebnem Korur Fincancı must be immediately and unconditionally released, and all charges against her must be urgently dropped,” she added.

The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation into Fincancı on charges of disseminating terrorist propaganda and insulting the state due to her remarks about the Turkish Armed Forces’ (TSK) alleged use of chemical weapons against militants from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Iraq. Fincancı said she had examined video images and called for a probe.

Turkey has strongly rejected the allegations that appeared in media outlets close to the PKK that its army was using chemical weapons in its counterterrorism operations in northern Iraq.

The PKK is listed as a terrorist group by Turkey and much of the international community.

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