The chief public prosecutor in Ankara demanded up to 7 years and 6 months in prison for Dr Şebnem Korur Fincancı, president of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), on terrorist propaganda charges in an indictment submitted to court on Friday.
Fincancı, leading expert in forensic medicine and campaigner against torture, was arrested in late October after calling for an independent investigation on allegations that Turkey was using chemical weapons against Kurdish fighters in Iraq and Syria.
The physician, who helped develop the United Nations’ reference standards on the investigation and documentation of torture cases, was abroad at a conference when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his far-right coalition partner Devlet Bahçeli targeted her personally, triggering an arrest warrant. She returned to Turkey voluntarily.
The prosecutor’s office cited Fincancı speaking to Medya Haber TV as evidence that she was making propaganda for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and accused her of “making it seem like the Turkish Armed Forces’ legitimate defence activities and protection of the country’s indivisible unity were illegal acts using chemical weapons”.
Fincancı is also accused of “participating in a live broadcast which presented neutralised terrorists as the massacring of guerrillas and therefore joining in the act of propaganda”, as seen in excerpts from the indictment published by Deutsche Welle Turkish.
The human rights defender rejects all accusations and maintains her call for an independent investigation is in line with her duties as a doctor.
The American Medical Association, joining the World Medical Association’s call, said Fincancı was among physicians unjustly imprisoned for their humanitarian work.
Several human rights focused medical organisations also spoke out in Fincancı’s defence and said her call for an investigation was “fully in line with internationally accepted best practices”.
“Dr. Fincancı’s arrest appears part of a deliberate pattern of applying counter-terrorism legislation to discredit human rights defenders and organisations and interrupt their vital human rights and medical work,” UN rapporteurs said in an earlier statement.