A Turkish court on Thursday refused to release a prominent doctor and human rights activist who faces prison for demanding a probe into the army’s alleged use of chemical weapons against Kurdish fighters in Iraq, Agence France-Presse reported.
Turkish Medical Association chair Şebnem Korur Fincancı was detained in October for using a television interview to highlight claims that first surfaced in media close to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The militia said 17 of its fighters had died in Turkish chemical weapons attacks in the mountains and caves of northern Iraq.
The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community for waging a bloody insurgency that has claimed tens of thousands of lives since 1984.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused Fincancı of “speaking the language of terrorism,” while the defense ministry called the allegation “slander.”
The 63-year-old forensic medicine expert could be jailed for over seven years if found guilty of promoting “terrorist propaganda.”
Fincancı told the presiding judge in the second week of her trial that Erdoğan’s comments made an impartial hearing impossible.
“The president could call me a terrorist,” she told the packed Istanbul courtroom.
“After this statement, how could public institutions and the judiciary make an independent ruling?”
The judge ended the hearing by sending the doctor back to jail and setting the next hearing for Jan. 11.
Fincancı is known in Turkey as both a forensics expert and a human rights campaigner who openly speaks out against Erdogan’s government.
Her initial detention sparked protests on the streets of Istanbul that resulted in dozens of arrests.
The Turkish Medical Association she chairs covers around 80 percent of the country’s doctors.
But its past forays into national political debates have seen several of its top members come under investigation.
The association said in a statement to reporters outside the courtroom that all 11 of its executive committee members were now under formal investigation for potential “membership in a terrorist organization.”
“If I am a terrorist, I wonder what organization I’m a terrorist of,” Fincancı told the court.
“They treat me as if I’m the most dangerous suspect in the world in order to influence you,” she told the presiding judge.
Fincancı’s case has drawn an outpouring of support from international rights groups as well as some European officials.
German human rights commissioner Luise Amtsberg called Fincancı “one of Turkey’s bravest voices.”
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch issued a joint call with five other organizations for Fincancı’s release pending trial.