Subscribe

Prominent Kurdish lawyer killed during news conference in Turkey

Tahir Elci, a well-known Kurdish lawyer and human rights defender, was killed Saturday in an attack in southeast Turkey while he and other lawyers were speaking to the press.

  • close
    Tahir Elci, the head of Diyarbakir Bar Association, speaks to the media shortly before being killed in Diyarbakir, Turkey, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015. Elci, a prominent lawyer, who faced a prison term on charges of supporting Turkey's Kurdish rebels, has been killed in an attack in Diyarbakir. Elci was shot on Saturday while he was making a press statement in front of a historical mosques damaged during fightings between Kurdish rebels and security forces. Elci holds a placard that reads: " Let's protect humanity heritage."
    IHA agency/AP
    View Caption
  • About video ads
    View Caption
of

A prominent lawyer and human rights defender, who faced a criminal charge for supporting Kurdish rebels, was killed Saturday in an attack in southeast Turkey in which a police officer also died, officials said.

Tahir Elci was shot while he and other lawyers were making a press statement. Two policemen and a journalist were also injured.

It wasn't immediately clear who was behind the attack and there were conflicting reports about what led to it.

Interior Minister Efkan Ala and other officials said the assault was against police officers, and that Elci died in an ensuing clash. However, the Diyarbakir Bar Association said the lawyer, who was Kurdish, was the target of the attack.

Elci, 49, was the head of the bar association in the mainly Kurdish city and a human rights activist.

He was briefly detained and questioned last month for saying during a live news program that the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, is not a terrorist organization. Soon after, he was charged with making terrorist propaganda and was facing more than seven years in prison.

Turkey and its allies consider the PKK to be a terrorist organization, and the government has stepped up attacks against it in recent months. The PKK has been fighting for autonomy in southeastern Turkey since 1984.

Ala said the attack began with two people firing at police from an area some 100 meters (109 yards) away from where Elci was speaking. A policeman died in that attack. Ala said Elci died soon after in a clash between the police and assailants.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu spoke of two possible scenarios.

"One possibility is that after this terror attack, the assailants assassinated Mr. Elci," Davutoglu said. "A second possibility is that ... Elci got caught in the crossfire."

Davutoglu vowed to find the culprits through a "transparent" investigation and promised no cover-up.

A government official said four inspectors have been assigned to investigate the case, adding that the government was "determined to shed light" on the attack.

He said authorities believe that Elci was caught in the crossfire, but were not ruling out "the possibility that a third party directly targeted him." The official cannot be named because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the issue.

Elci had said through his Twitter account that he had received death threats because of his televised comments in which he defended the rebels.

Authorities declared a curfew in the Sur neighborhood where the attack occurred — a scene of frequent clashes between security forces and Kurdish youths.

Protests later broke out in Diyarbakir and elsewhere denouncing the killing.

In Diyarbakir, police used pressurized water against a group of protesters who hurled rocks and fire crackers. Police also dispersed hundreds of people who had gathered in central Istanbul chanting: "We are all Tahir, we are all Elci."

At the time of the attack, Elci and other lawyers were making a statement about the destruction caused to a historic mosque by the clashes in Sur. Elci had strongly advocated an end to the renewed violence between the PKK and security forces.

The U.S. Embassy expressed shock over Elci's death, calling him a "courageous defender of human rights."

"Our condolences go to his family, that of the policeman killed and to all of Turkey. A terrible loss," the embassy said on Twitter.

Elci was the lawyer for Mohammed Rasool, a journalist who has worked for The Associated Press and other media organizations. Rasool was arrested in August in Diyarbakir while reporting for Vice News.

About these ads
Sponsored Content by LockerDome
 
 
Make a Difference
Inspired? Here are some ways to make a difference on this issue.
FREE Newsletters
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.
 

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK