An Ankara Court ruled to arrest Turkish Medical Association President Şebnem Korur Fincancı for “dispersing terrorist propaganda” on October 27, after Dr. Fincancı conveyed her opinion about alleged chemical weapons usage of Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) on a TV show.
TTB President and Forensic Pathologist Dr. Fincancı was taken into custody on October 26 from her home in İstanbul and brought to the capital, Ankara, within the scope of the investigation carried out by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.
After the preliminary proceedings at the Anti-Terrorism Branch, Fincancı gave her initial statement to the prosecutor’s office and transferred her to the Ankara Criminal Court of Peace with a demand for her arrest.
The court ruled for her arrest while waiting for trial on the charge of “dispersing terrorist propaganda” on October 27.
The Chief Public Prosecutor also demanded that Fincancı’s chair as the head of the institution be striped. If Fincancı is dismissed, the association will hold the elections within a month by a committee appointed by the court.
Chemical weapon allegations
On October 18, some media outlets believed to be linked to the outlawed PKK alleged that the Turkish Armed Forces used chemical weapons in operations against the PKK in Northern Iraq, sharing video footage claimed to be related to the incidents.
The Kurdish-issue-focused People’s Democratic Party (HDP) submitted a parliamentary questionnaire for National Defence Minister Hulusi Akar to answer on October 19; while the party’s imprisoned former co-leader Selahattin Demirtaş voiced his concern on his social media account.
In the written statement made on October 20, the Ministry of National Defence refuted the claims, stating that there was no such ammunition in the TAF inventory. The ministry stated that TAF does not use “ammunition prohibited by international law and agreements.”
Political backlash against medical association
Appearing on a news programme on October 20, TTB President and forensic pathologist Dr. Fincancı answered questions about the footage.
She said that “the images might indicate an agent affecting the nervous system.” However, she said that “such allegations should be examined by an independent committee in accordance with the principles of the UN Minnesota Protocol.”
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Nationalist Movement Party MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli strongly condemned Fincancı for “slandering TAF.”
In a speech after the cabinet meeting on October 24, Erdoğan said “the judiciary has taken an action regarding the president of the TTB”.
He added that the “Turkish” in the name of the institution should be taken out, as “they are not national”.
On October 25, MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli demanded TTB be closed down and TTB’s administration be stripped of their Turkish citizenship.
Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdağ made an announcement on October 27 stating that a “legislative process will be initiated about the institutions,” adding that the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB) will also be included in the new legislation.
In her statement at the prosecutor’s office, the TTB President said that she participated in the live broadcast of the TV programme from Germany, where she was attending a conference on “Prisons and Human Rights,” organised by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.
She said that her comments on the TV programme were only a “preliminary evaluation” and she did not confirm any claim that TAF used such weapons.
Fincancı said that she took an active role in the preparation of two different books on chemical weapons, participated in autopsies on these types of weapons, and she is knowledgeable on the issue, and “such situations require thorough investigation.”
In a message shared by Fincancı’s lawyers, she described the detention process as “unrealistic.”
“I am sorry that you are faced with this unrealistic situation,” she said, adding, “We will overcome this smear campaign and fight together. In solidarity with the days when we will establish a humane health system together,” she wrote in a message.
TTB: “Political lynching”
The Turkish Medical Association criticised the arrest decision in a written statement. TTB emphasized that Fincancı was not summoned to testify, yet she was taken into custody by a police operation. The association stated that no legal process was carried out and that the practice amounted to a “political lynching”.
The association described the arrest decision as “a dark day for the history of democracy in Turkey.” It said that Fincancı was “arrested as a result of an obviously unlawful process, although there is no suspicion of escape or evidence.”
In the statement, “TTB carefully listens to and evaluates the criticisms regarding the aforementioned debates within the framework of freedom of thought and expression. However, it will not mean that we will accept the political lynching that Şebnem Korur Fincancı has suffered and the unlawful practices she has been subjected to.”