Turkey investigates prominent rights activist over remarks about use of chemical weapons

Photo: ETHA

Şebnem Korur Fincancı, a famous human rights activist and head of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), is under investigation due to her comments on recent allegations that the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) had used chemical weapons in their operations against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Turkish Minute reported.

On Tuesday the pro-Kurdish Fırat News Agency (ANF) published a video that showed two members of the PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community, apparently under the influence of a chemical agent.

The chief public prosecutor’s office in Ankara said in a written statement on Thursday that an investigation of Fincancı had been launched on accusations of disseminating propaganda for the PKK and publicly denigrating the Turkish military in her recent comments on the chemical weapons allegations.

“I saw the footage earlier. It’s obvious that one of the toxic chemical gases that directly affect the nervous system has been used. … Although their use is prohibited, we can unfortunately see that these banned weapons are used in conflict,” Fincancı said during a live broadcast on Medya Haber TV on Thursday.

She added that an effective investigation by an independent body should be carried out in order to hold the states that use such weapons accountable.

Speaking to the Independent Turkish news website about the investigation, Fincancı said on Thursday that it’s “natural” for a forensic expert to want such allegations to be investigated and not a move that constitutes a crime.

The human rights activist, who is currently on a visit to Germany, described the investigation as a move by the government to “intimidate the society” so as to prevent them from talking about the allegations of the use of chemical weapons.

“This attitude creates the impression that they [the government] really committed a crime and are trying to cover it up,” she said.

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 allegations have been denied by the Presidency, the Turkish Defense Ministry and a group of senior officials from the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government since the release of the video footage.

During a cross-border military operation against Kurdish militants in Syria in 2019, Kurdish officials accused Turkey of using “unconventional weapons” in the conflict and called for international inspectors to examine the injured.

Turkey has repeatedly denied such allegations, saying that no chemical weapons exist in the inventory of the TSK.

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