ISTANBUL– The president of the Turkish Medical Association on Friday denied accusations in court that she spread ‘terrorist propaganda’ as she called for an investigation into allegations that the Turkish military used chemical weapons against Kurdish militants .
Dr. Sebnem Korur Fincanci, 63, is on trial for making propaganda on behalf of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. She was arrested in October after giving an interview in which she spoke of the need for an “effective investigation” into the allegations.
Fincanci, a forensic expert, is the latest activist to be prosecuted under Turkey’s sweeping anti-terrorism laws, which human rights groups say have led to a crackdown on free speech. She faces up to seven and a half years in prison if convicted.
The charges are based on a recording of the interview with pro-Kurdish media where Fincanci is heard saying she had viewed a video purporting to show the use of chemical weapons in Iraq.
“What I expressed on the show was a preliminary diagnosis. It was not a definitive conclusion but a request for an effective and independent investigation,” she told the court during from the first hearing of his trial, quoted by the Dokuz 8 Haber website, “My words cannot be considered a crime within the framework of science or freedom of expression.”
The trial has been adjourned until December 29.
The interview followed allegations by Kurdish militants that the Turkish military had used chemical weapons against the PKK in northern Iraq. Turkish officials have strongly denied the allegations, insisting that the army has no such weapons in its inventory.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Fincanci of slandering the Turkish Armed Forces and insulting his country. He pledged to take action to rid the Turkish Medical Association and other professional organizations of “supporters of the terrorist organization”.
A nationalist party allied with Erdogan’s ruling party demanded that she be stripped of her Turkish nationality and her association closed.
Hundreds of people gathered outside the courthouse to show their support for Fincanci, who has spent much of her career documenting torture and ill-treatment, and who is a leading activist in the human rights in Turkey. She was also the president of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey.
On Friday, the German government’s human rights commissioner, Luise Amtsberg, expressed her “full solidarity” with Fincanci, describing her as “one of the bravest voices in Turkey”.
“The trial against Sebnem Korur Fincanci once again shows us the price human rights defenders in Turkey are paying for their commitment,” she said.
The PKK has been waging an armed insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984. The group is considered a terrorist organization in Turkey, Europe and the United States.