Dr Şebnem Korur Fincancı, head of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), was sent to the Sincan Women’s Prison in capital Ankara following a prosecutor’s demand for her arrest on charges of terrorist propaganda.
Fincancı is accused of associating with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) over her recent comments that convulsions seen in a video published by PKK’s military wing were consistent with effects of certain chemicals that have been banned from use in military operations.
Ahead of her arrest, Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ said that the government was preparing new legal measures regarding “both the TTB and the chambers of engineers and architects”.
“It is unacceptable for the TTB, under the word ‘Turkish’, use the language of terrorist organisations hostile to the Turkish nation and the State of Turkey, as if to insult Turkishness,” Bozdağ said. “As such, preparations are underway for a new arrangement there.”
The Turkish government has long targeted professional organisations, particularly as chambers of engineers object to various megaprojects citing public good. The TTB has drawn the government’s ire with its objections to COVID-19 measures and its calls for improvement for Turkey’s public health systems in general. Fincancı herself has been targeted over her comments on Turkish troops’ alleged use of chemical weapons against Kurdish fighters in Iraq.
Earlier in the week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said ministers had been “instructed to accelerate the legislative work for a new structure regarding professional organisations, the Medical Association in particular”.
Devlet Bahçeli, the far-right leader of Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), also called for the TTB to be shut down, and Fincancı to “face repercussions”.
Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Co-chair Mithat Sancar said on Wednesday that the TTB and Fincancı were targeted because they present war as a matter of public health, and object to the government’s belligerent policies.
In her testimony at the prosecutor’s office on Wednesday night, Fincancı said her comments were analyses she made as a forensic medicine expert.
Members and representatives from the TTB and trade unions gathered at the Ankara court house in solidarity, where they were attacked by the police. Several students as well as TTB and union representatives were beaten and arrested on the spot.
Journalists were not allowed to follow the proceedings, despite having the required credentials.
Emin Korkmaz, chairman of the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB), called on the judiciary and law enforcement to “stop acting like tools for the ruling party”.
Meanwhile, the HDP said Fincancı’s arrest had been a result of the government’s hostility to diverse ideas. “You cannot obscure the truth with arrest orders. We stand by Şebnem Korur Fincancı, we stand behind her words,” the party said in a tweet.
TTB Merkez Konseyi Başkanı Şebnem Korur Fincancı'nın tutuklanması iktidarın farklı düşüncelere yönelik düşmanca tutumunun sonucudur. Hakikati tutuklama ve gözaltı kararlarıyla karartamazsınız. Şebnem Korur Fincancı'nın yanındayız, sözlerinin arkasındayız. pic.twitter.com/V7mSnvRgIM
— HDP (@HDPgenelmerkezi) October 27, 2022