Turkish doctor detained for proposing chemical weapons probe

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Police detained the president of the Turkish Medical Association after she called for an independent investigation into allegations that the Turkish military used chemical weapons against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq, Turkish media reported Wednesday.

Dr. Sebnem Korur Fincanci, 63, was detained on charges of disseminating “terrorist propaganda” as part of an investigation launched by anti-terrorism police, according to the Ankara chief prosecutor’s office.

The prosecutor’s office said it has also asked a court for her dismissal as president of the association.

Fincanci, a forensic expert, has spent much of her career documenting torture and ill-treatment, and is a leading human rights activist in Turkey. She has served as president of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey.

State-run Anadolu news agency and other media reported that she was detained in Istanbul following an early morning raid at her home and was being brought to Ankara for questioning.

Last week, Turkish officials strongly rejected allegations by Kurdish militants that the Turkish military used chemical weapons against the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, in northern Iraq, insisting the military doesn’t have such weapons in its inventory.

In comments to a pro-Kurdish news outlet, Fincanci said she inspected a video purporting to show the use of chemical weapons and called for an “effective investigation.” She later clarified in an interview with the Turkish-language Independent news website, that she did not say she believed chemical weapons were used.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused her of slandering Turkey’s armed forces and of insulting her country “by speaking the language of the terrorist organization.”

He vowed to take actions to clear the Turkish Medical Association and other professional organizations of “supporters of the terrorist organization.”

Devlet Bahceli, the leader of a nationalist party that is allied with Erdogan’s ruling party, also severely criticized Fincanci during a speech on Tuesday, demanding that she be stripped of her Turkish citizenship and the association shut down.

The Turkish Medical Association said Fincanci was the victim of a “lynching campaign” and said her detention was unacceptable. The Human Rights Foundation of Turkey called for her immediate release.

The doctor’s detention came a day after police conducted raids in several Turkish cities and detained 11 journalists working with pro-Kurdish media.

Police said the journalists were detained over news or other content “that incites the public to hatred and enmity” and accused their media outlet of having links to the PKK.

The PKK has led an armed insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984. The group is considered a terrorist organization in Turkey, Europe and the United States.

Critics say Turkey’s broad anti-terrorism laws, along with a vague new law passed to fight disinformation have lead to a crackdown on the freedom of expression.

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