Turkey detains medical group head on 'terrorist propaganda' charge

ISTANBUL, Oct 26 (Reuters) - Turkish police detained the head of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), Sebnem Korur Fincanci, on Wednesday for allegedly "spreading terrorist group propaganda", the TTB and state media said.

The state-owned Anadolu news agency said an investigation was launched over statements Fincanci made to Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group-linked media last week, commenting on alleged chemical weapons' use by the Turkish armed forces.

The TTB described her arrest as a "political lynching" and said it was the final stage of pressure exerted by authorities on the medical group and its leaders. It demanded that she be released immediately after her statement is taken.

"We will continue the struggle to protect democracy, peace, the independence of science and the freedom of expression of scientists, standing up for the TTB and Dr Sebnem Korur Fincanci," the TTB said in a statement.

President Tayyip Erdogan told reporters last week the armed forces had never used chemical weapons and that legal action would be taken against anyone who made such accusations.

His comments came after media close to the PKK published videos that they said showed chemical weapons being used by the Turkish army against the PKK in northern Iraq.

The Ankara chief prosecutor's office said a request had been made to a civil court for the termination of Fincanci's role as head of the association and for the selection of a new chairperson, Anadolu reported.

A TTB spokesperson said she was detained at her home in Istanbul and taken to the city's police headquarters. Anadolu said she would be transferred to anti-terror police headquarters in the capital, Ankara.

Prosecutors opened the investigation into Fincanci last Thursday after she said on television that footage indicated the use of toxic gases and called for an independent investigation, state media reported.

An international medical federation published a report this month seeking independent investigation of possible violations of the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention by the Turkish military.

The PKK launched an insurgency against the Turkish state in 1984 and more than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict. It has been designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and United States.

Reporting by Daren Butler Editing by Ece Toksabay and Robert Birsel

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.