Top Kurdish Lawyer Killed in SE Turkey

Top Kurdish Lawyer Killed in SE TurkeyTop Kurdish Lawyer Killed in SE Turkey

An unidentified gunman killed a prominent Kurdish lawyer and rights activist on Saturday in what the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) called a “planned assassination”, urging people to take to the streets in protest.

Witnesses said Tahir Elci was shot in the head after making a statement to media in Diyarbakir, the largest city in Turkey’s troubled, mainly Kurdish southeast where he was president of the local bar association. A policeman was also killed in an ensuing exchange of fire, Reuters reported.

Elci had been criticized in Turkey for saying the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) was not a terrorist organization, though he had denounced PKK violence. He was facing trial over his comments which had infuriated state prosecutors.

Hundreds of people have been killed since a ceasefire between the PKK and Turkish security forces collapsed in July, reigniting a conflict in which some 40,000 people have died since it began in 1984.

The HDP called a protest in Istanbul and condemned Elci’s killing which it described as an “planned assassination” in a written statement.

The party said Elci had been targeted by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its media and it called for political parties, civil society and professional groups to “raise their voices” in protest.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who founded the AKP, said in a speech later that a policeman had also been killed during the attack. “This incident shows how Turkey is right in its determination to fight terrorism,” he said.

At a news conference with Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag, Interior Minister Efkan Ala said a gun battle erupted after someone shot at police from an unidentified car. He did not say if anybody had been detained or not. The Diyarbakir governor’s office declared a curfew in the area after the incident.