Turkish Medical Association (TTB) Chairwoman Dr Şebnem Korur Fincancı is among “unjustly imprisoned health professionals”, the American Medical Association (AMA) said in a statement calling for the top forensic expert’s release from prison.
Fincancı, who was arrested in October over her comments that allegations of chemical weapon use against Turkey should be independently investigated, is also among “physicians who have been subject to imprisonment or torture because of their humanitarian efforts to improve the health of their patients”, the AMA said.
The president of the AMA will write to the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to ask him to intervene in support of Fincancı and other healthcare professionals who have been unjustly imprisoned, and support the TTB’s independence.
AMA’s statement comes in response to a call from the World Medical Association (WMA) to its member organisations to contact local authorities and ask for interventions “to put an end to the oppression against the medical profession in the country”.
Fincancı commenting on a video depicting alleged victims of chemical weapons and calling for an independent investigation was “fully in line with internationally accepted best practices” for physicians, representatives from Physicians for Human Rights, International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims, Danish Institute against Torture and the Redress Trust said in an article published on the medical journal Lancet.
“By attacking Fincancı’s freedom of expression and professional concern for the health of others, the Turkish Government is attempting to stifle the practice of evidence-based medicine and civil rights as a whole,” they said. “Fincancı’s detention on politically motivated charges is the latest escalation in the Turkish Government’s campaign to intimidate, silence, and punish her and other medical professionals who speak out about possible health harms as a result of alleged human rights violations.”
“The Erdoğan Administration is clearly attempting to make an example of Fincancı—to show that those who speak truth to power will be coerced, harassed, and detained,” they said, calling for Fincancı’s immediate release.
The Icelandic Medical Association (IMA) also condemned Fincancı’s “detention and judicial harassment” in a statement.
IMA views Fincancı’s arrest and detention as “yet another example of harassment of our Turkish colleagues … Her detention only aims to sanction her legitimate human rights activities,” they said.
The statements and calls are based on the WMA’s Tokyo Declaration, which defines a physician’s role as “to alleviate the distress of his or her fellow human beings, and no motive, whether personal, collective or political, shall prevail against this higher purpose”.