ISTANBUL, Turkey, A prominent pro-Kurdish lawyer and human rights activist was killed Saturday in what may have been a politically motivated shooting during a press conference calling for an end to violence between the Turkish government and a Kurdish rebel group.
Tahir Elci, president of the Diyarbakir Bar Association in southeastern Turkey, was shot as gunmen opened fire in the district of Sur. One policeman died and a second was injured in the shooting as well.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Elci’s death was either an assassination or he was caught in crossfire. He said an investigation has been launched to make a final determination.
“This incident will definitely be clarified. We do not let crimes go unsolved,” he said. “However, if some people try to create chaos over this incident, we will not be indifferent.”
Elci was taking part in a press conference to draw attention to damage done to the 1,500-year-old Four Legged Minaret Mosque during clashes between Turkish security forces and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, militants. The Diyarbakir Bar Association and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party called the shooting an assasination.
“In the place left by Tahir Elci, thousands more Tahir Elcis will carry on the work in the struggle for law and justice,” the party said.
Once the word of Elci’s death spread, thousands of local residents took to the streets to protest. Police used water cannons and tear gas in an effort to disperse protesters.