Turkey’s top doctor and human rights activist Fincancı convicted in chemical weapons trial

PHOTO: Evrensel daily
PHOTO: Evrensel daily

A Turkish court has convicted Şebnem Korur Fincancı, the president of the Turkish Medical Association and a renowned human rights activist, of disseminating “terrorist propaganda” in a trial seen by government critics as an attempt to silence dissent, the Agence France-Presse reported.

The court sentenced Fincancı, also a forensic medicine expert, to two years, eight months and 15 days in prison and ordered her immediate release from pre-trial detention. The doctor is expected to appeal the verdict.

Jail sentences of less than five years rarely see people jailed in Turkey.

Fincancı, 63, was placed in pre-trial detention in Ankara in October due to her remarks during an interview with the pro-Kurdish Medya Haber TV outlet and commented on a video purporting to show the Turkish military’s use of chemical weapons against the militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq.

She suggested that a toxic gas may have been released but also called for an “effective investigation.”

Turkey has strongly rejected the allegations and Fincancı faced a backlash from government and nationalist circles due to her call and was accused of giving credit to claims made by the PKK and defaming the Turkish military.

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

The indictment drafted by prosecutors against her was seeking a prison sentence of up to seven-and-a-half years on terrorist propaganda and insult charges.

The investigation into Fincancı was launched based on a criminal complaint filed by the Defense Ministry, according to the indictment.

Fincancı, who has spent much of her career documenting torture and ill-treatment, and has served as president of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, denied the charges during her trial and said she have a professional opinion.

A European Union delegation observed the trial on Wednesday, along with rights groups and supporters, in a packed courtroom.

Ahead of the hearing, Dr. Ole Johan Bakke of the Standing Committee of European Doctors, said the group was “deeply concerned about the continuous harassment of the Turkish Medical Association from the Turkish government and authorities.”

The World Medical Association has described the case against Fincanci as “unfounded, unlawful and unacceptable” and had called for her immediate acquittal.

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