Top pro-Kurdish lawyer shot dead in Turkey’s south-east

Tahir Elci died of gunshot wounds to the head.

Leading Kurdish lawyer Tahir Elci's body lies on ground as a plain clothes police officer takes cover during a shoot out on November 28 in Diyarbakir. AFP Photo
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DIYARBAKIR // An unidentified gunman in Turkey on Saturday killed a top Kurdish lawyer who had been criticised for saying the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) was not a terrorist organisation.

Witnesses said Tahir Elci, the president of the Bar Association, was shot in the head after making a statement to the media in Diyarbakir, the largest city in Turkey’s troubled, mainly Kurdish south-east.

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

“The moment the statement ended, the crowd was sprayed with bullets,” said a local official from the pro-Kurdish HDP party.

“A single bullet struck Elci in the head,” he said, adding that 11 people were injured in the incident.

Shortly after the incident, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said a policeman was also killed during the attack in Diyarbakir.

“This incident shows how Turkey is right in its determination in the fight against terrorism,” he said.

In a video clip of the incident taken by the Dogan News Agency, men hiding behind the minaret of a nearby mosque started firing at Elci and people standing with him.

“A person ran towards Tahir Elci, fired with one hand and then started to run away. Then fighting started,” said a Dogan news agency reporter.

The Diyarbakir governor’s office declared a curfew in the area after the incident.

Elci was facing trial for his comments about the PKK, which had infuriated state prosecutors.

Turkey, the United States and the European Union all classify the PKK as a terrorist group. The PKK is demanding greater autonomy for Turkey’s Kurds.

* Reuters