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Turkey doctors get prison terms for criticising Syria offensive

Turkish military vehicles on patrol in a de-militarized zone in the northwestern Syrian province of Hama province
Turkish military vehicles on patrol in a de-militarized zone in the northwestern Syrian province of Hama province AFP/File
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Ankara (AFP)

Eleven members of Turkey's leading medical association were sentenced to prison terms on Friday over criticisms of a military offensive against Kurdish militants in Syria last year.

They were given 20 months in prison for "inciting hatred and hostility," one of those convicted, Seyhmus Gokalp, told AFP.

The 11 had made up the central committee of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) when it issued a statement in January 2018 saying "war is a man-made public health problem" in response to Turkey's offensive in the western enclave of Afrin in Syria.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the time lambasted the group as "a gang of unthinking slaves".

One member, Hande Arpat, was sentenced to a further 19 months for "terrorist propaganda" over postings on social media, the association said in a statement.

The association has over 83,000 members representing 80 percent of Turkey's doctors. Five of the convicted members remain on its central council.

The 11 remain free pending appeal, Gokalp said, adding that the ruling was "a punishment against the right to live healthily in peace" in Turkey.

"A punishment was given by the court but we do not accept it. We will do everything we can to annul this. We will fight until the end," TTB chairman and another of those convicted, Sinan Adiyaman, said.

Turkey accuses the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) of being a "terrorist offshoot" of Kurdish insurgents within its own territory.

Turkey's offensive in Syria ended in March 2018 with the seizure of Afrin city.

Hundreds were detained for criticising the operation on social media.

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