Turkish Medical Association (TTB) Case
The former president of the Türk Tabipleri Birliği (TTB- Turkish Medical Association) Central Council Prof. Dr. Raşit Tükel, and 10 colleagues who are also members of the Council, were accused of and tried for “Provoking the Public to Hatred, Hostility or Degrading”, and were sentenced to 1 year and 8 months of imprisonment on May 3, 2019. The indictment was based on a TTB statement regarding the “Olive Branch” military operation to Afrin, which read “War is a public health problem” and another World Peace Day statement dating September 1, 2016. Tükel is also one of the academics who signed the Academics for Peace declaration.
Prof. Dr. Raşit Tükel was born in 1959 in Nazilli district of Aydın province. He graduated from Ege University Faculty of Medicine in 1983. He specialized in psychiatry at the Psychiatry Department at Istanbul University Faculty of Medicine. He became professor in 2000.
He was one of the strongest candidates for Istanbul University rectorship elections in 2015. He received 1202 votes, which made him win the preliminary elections. His name was written second place in the list presented to the President by the Yüksek Öğretim Kurulu (YÖK – Board of Higher Education). Although Tükel was voted in the position, Mahmut Ak, who came second place in the elections, was appointed.
The appointment was protested by the employees and students of the university in front of the main building on campus. Close to 15 thousand people in academia signed a petition demanding the appointment of Raşit Tükel.
Tükel served on the TTB Central Council as the vice president during the 2014-2016 term; and as the president during the 2016-2018 term. TTB is an independent profession-based civil society organization that receives no funds from the government. 80% of the physicians in Turkey are members of TTB. Among its founding objectives are protecting, improving the health of peoples of Turkey, making health services more accessible and affordable; and upholding principles of medical ethics in Turkey,
Prof. Dr. Raşit Tükel is also being tried at 34th Criminal Court for having signed “We will not be a party to this crime” declaration as a member of the Academics for Peace, accused of “making terrorist organization propaganda”. He refused accusations against him and stated: “My signature is a manifestation of my desire that, in our country, people are able to live in peace, in humane and healthy conditions, not fearing for their lives. That the justice system allows for this, the Kurdish problem is solved in a peaceful manner, and the state is able to protect the right to live peacefully… These clashes and the conflict have indirect consequences on individuals’ health and public health by interrupting services, destroying the environment, forcibly displacing people, allowing for human rights violations, increasing violence and violent events, which fall under our interest and area of work as physicians.”
He was arrested on January 30, 2018 with ten other physicians who are also members of TTB Central Council after their “War is a public health problem” statement to counter the war in Afrin, where Turkish Armed Forces intervened in northwest Syria under the operation “Olive Branch”. Police raided TTB Headquarters. Raşit Tükel was released upon the condition of judiciary control on February 5, 2018. While in detention, Istanbul University Rector Mahmut Ak suspended Tükel for three months.
The decision hearing of the lawsuit against the 11 physicians was held on May 3, 2019 at Ankara 32nd Criminal Court. The board of judges convicted Hande Arpat for “Provoking the Public to Hatred, Hostility or Degrading” and “Making Propaganda for an Organization”. She was sentenced to 3 years 3 months and 22 days of imprisonment. The remaining 10 physicians including Raşit Tükel were sentenced to 1 year and 8 months of imprisonment, each, for “Provoking the Public to Hatred, Hostility or Degrading”. Their demand to defer the announcement of the verdict was rejected; thus, the physicians’ sentences were not reprieved.
11 convicted TTB Central Council member physicians: Mehmet Raşit Tükel, Sinan Adıyaman, Ayfer Horasan, Bülent Nazım Yılmaz, Dursun Yaşar Ulutaş, Funda Barlık Obuz, Hande Arpat, Mehmet Sezai Berber, Mustafa Tamer Gören, Selma Göngür, Şeyhmuz Gökalp.