Berliner Tageblatt - Turkish doctor on 'terror' trial over chemical arms comment

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Turkish doctor on 'terror' trial over chemical arms comment
Turkish doctor on 'terror' trial over chemical arms comment / Photo: © AFP

Turkish doctor on 'terror' trial over chemical arms comment

The head of the Turkish Doctors' Union went on trial Friday on "terror" charges linked to her calls for a probe into the army's alleged use of chemical weapons against Kurdish fighters in Iraq.

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Sebnem Korur Fincanci was arrested and jailed on October 26 after becoming one of the most prominent public figures to draw attention to reports that first surfaced in media outlets close to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

The PKK has been waging a bloody insurgency against the Turkish state since the 1980s that has seen it listed as a terrorist organisation by Ankara and its Western allies.

The Turkish government has firmly rejected the allegations and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Fincanci of "speaking the language of terrorism".

Fincanci has been charged with disseminating "terror propaganda" -- a crime that has seen past defendants sentenced to 13 years in jail.

Her initial detention sparked street protests in Istanbul that ended with dozens of arrests.

The 63-year-old forensic medicine expert entered the packed Istanbul courtroom holding a defiant fist in the air while her supporters applauded and dozens of anti-riot police looked on.

Fincanci once again called for "an effective investigation" including on-the-ground inspections and autopsies of the Kurdish fighters.

"As a human rights defender, I have a responsibility to defend freedom of expression and the public's right to information," she told the court.

The PKK said 17 of its fighters had died in chemical weapons attacks in the mountains and caves of northern Iraq.

Fincanci is known in Turkey as both a forensics expert and a human rights campaigner who openly speaks out against Erdogan's government.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch issued a joint call with five other organisations for Fincanci's release pending trial.

"Korur Fincanci is a distinguished expert on the documentation of torture," they said in a joint statement.

"Her work should be lauded, not punished," the World Medical Association's German chairman Frank Ulrich Montgomery said in the statement.

But the chief prosecutor argued in court Friday that Fincanci "actively participated in propaganda activities of the PKK" and asked for her to remain in custody pending trial.

M.Ouellet--BTB