PHR condemns the sentencing in absentia of Dr. Gençay Gürsoy, founder and former president of the Turkish Medical Association (TMA), by the Istanbul 37th Penal Court in Turkey. Dr. Gürsoy was sentenced to two years and three months in prison on the trumped-up charge of “disseminating propaganda for an armed terrorist organization.” The court decided not to reduce the prison sentence, stating that Dr. Gürsoy showed “negative attitude and behavior … and does not feel any remorse.” Dr. Gürsoy was unable to attend the hearing for medical reasons. The sentence will now go through an appeals process.
Dr. Gürsoy is being targeted after having signed on to a petition titled “We Will Not be Party to These Crimes,” which calls on the Turkish government to cease violence against civilians. This petition was a response to the ongoing government crackdown following an alleged coup attempt in July 2016. Since then, according to Amnesty International, more than 50,000 people have been arrested, with at least 25,000 academics amongst them. While most have been released, many human rights defenders, including physicians, continue to face charges and unfair trials.
Dr. Gürsoy previously served as the secretary general and chair of the Istanbul Medical Chamber, and as an honorary member of the board of the TMA. In addition, he was the head of the neurology department at the Medical School of Istanbul University, and helped found the Human Rights Association and the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey. Dr. Gürsoy retired in 2006.
PHR previously sent a letter to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, calling on him to release detained members of the TMA. Turkish authorities must immediately cease their targeting of medical doctors for practicing their fundamental right to freedom of expression, and for calling on the government to stop its crackdown against those who protest human rights violations. PHR calls for the baseless charges against Dr. Gürsoy to be immediately and unconditionally dropped, and for an end to the unjust targeting of dissenters and to unfair trials and sentences.
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.