Turkish top medical association chair arrested over 'chemical weapons' remark

Turkish Medical Association (TTB) chair Şebnem Korur Fincancı was arrested after being targeted by President Erdoğan and his ally MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli. Financı said the Turkish Armed Forces had "seemed to have used chemical weapons" in their operations against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and called for an investigation led by an independent delegation.

Duvar English

Turkish police on Oct. 26 detained Turkish Medical Association (TTB) and The Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) chairs Şebnem Korur Fincancı in Istanbul over the alleged charge of “making propaganda for a terrorist organization.” Fincancı said the Turkish Armed Forces had seemed to have used chemical weapons in their operations against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Media close to the PKK published videos which reportedly showed chemical weapons being used by the army against the PKK in northern Iraq. Several Turkish officials have denied the allegations in question, including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

After the allegations, Fincancı said she examined the footage of the alleged use of chemical weapons and said, "Obviously, one of the toxic chemical gases that directly affects the nervous system was used. Although its use is prohibited, we see it used in conflicts here.” Fincancı said independent delegations must carry out investigations in the region regarding the allegations.

An Ankara prosecutor’s office then launched an investigation against Fincancı over the alleged grounds that "making propaganda for a terrorist organization" and "insulting the Turkish nation, the state of the Republic of Turkey, state institutions and organs.”

Targeting Fincancı, President Erdoğan said, if necessary, they will change TTB chair by “legal regulation,” following Fincancı’s remarks.

“The judiciary has taken action regarding the TTB chair, who slandered the cross-border operations carried out by our Turkish Armed Forces. I believe that the fact that such a person who humiliates her country and army by speaking the language of a terrorist organization is at the head of an institution whose name begins with a Turk, disturbs every member of our nation,” Erdoğan said on Oct. 24 after the cabinet meeting.

Erdoğan further said they will change the regulation on the structure of professional organizations, so that they can “get rid of the supporters of terrorist organizations.” 

Moreover, Erdoğan's ally and the leader of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) said on Oct. 25 that Fincancı’s citizenship must be revoked during his party’s parliamentary group meeting. Bahçeli also called for the closure of the TTB.

Announcing the detention, Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office said that it requested the court to dismiss Fincancı as the chair of the TTB and to elect a new president.

The Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) called for the immediate release of its chair Fincancı.

“Professor Şebnem Korur Fincancı, head of the Turkish Medical Association and Board Member of HRFT, is detained unlawfully. Fincancı should be released immediately,” it said.

An Ankara court on Oct. 27 formally arrested Fincancı over the alleged charge of “making propaganda for a terrorist organization.”

German Foreign Office slammed the decision and said "We are worried about the arrest of Sebnem Korur Fincanci - a courageous and upright voice for Human Rights in Turkey. The allegations against her must now be promptly clarified, in accordance with the rule of law. Free speech is one of the most precious goods of any society."