The arrest last week in Turkey of Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı is the latest in a pattern of politically motivated cases as the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan continues its crackdown on critics and opponents, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement on Friday.
Korur Fincancı, 63, chairperson of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), former head of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV), retired professor of forensic pathology and prominent human rights activist, was arrested Thursday in Ankara on allegations of spreading “terrorist propaganda.”
The pro-government Turkish media and President Erdoğan accused Korur Fincancı and the TTB of defaming the Turkish military, following which the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation into Fincancı on accusations of disseminating terrorist propaganda and insulting the state due to remarks she made about the Turkish Armed Forces’ (TSK) alleged use of chemical weapons against militants from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq.
Fincancı said she had examined video images and called for a probe.
”Korur Fincancı’s arrest is the latest in a pattern of politically motivated cases as the Erdoğan government continues its crackdown on critics and opponents. Just this week, police also detained 10 Kurdish journalists on top of 16 incarcerated in June. The Turkish authorities show all the signs of being determined to silence the voices of experts like Korur Fincancı as well as the journalists who report their words,” said Emma Sinclair-Webb, HRW’s Turkey director.
In addition, Sinclair-Webb argued that Turkish authorities are focused on a broader plan to reshape and take over professional associations critical of the government. She pointed to Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ’s speech on October 27 in which he announced the government’s plan to restructure some associations such as the TTB and the Turkish Union of Engineers and Architects Chambers (TMMOB). According to Sinclair-Webb, the arrest in April of Mücella Yapıcı, chairperson of the TMMOB, along with human rights defender Osman Kavala and six others for their alleged roles in the 2013 Gezi Park protests, as well as the chair of the TTB, Korur Fincancı, is evidence that the Turkish government plans to take over these associations and silence human rights defenders.
”In the run-up to the 2023 presidential and parliamentary elections, the Turkish government is likely to continue to misuse criminal charges and detention against individuals it wants to silence and attempt to seize institutions outside its control,” Sinclair-Webb said in the conclusion of her statement.
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.