ISTANBUL—Tens of 1000’s of mourners collected on Sunday to bid farewell to a notable human legal rights attorney whose taking pictures dying sent a setback to hopes of bringing an stop to months of political violence that has swept by means of Turkey’s Kurdish area.
Tahir Elci, one of Turkey’s foremost advocates for Kurdish legal rights, was killed Saturday after generating an attraction for an finish to clashes amongst Kurdish militants and point out stability forces.
Mr. Elci was shot during a clash on a slender road in Diyarbakir, the Kurdish greater part metropolis in southeastern Turkey that has been a single of the central battlegrounds for renewed clashes because a two-year-outdated stop-fireplace collapsed in July.
The violence began on Saturday when two Turkish police officers have been fatally wounded as they approached a taxi on a hectic Diyarbakir avenue. Two suspected gunmen jumped out of the taxi and fled into the city’s historic Sur neighborhood, exactly where Mr. Elci and his allies had been wrapping up a news convention urging an stop to street battles between Kurdish militants and Turkish stability forces.
Mr. Elci was killed as plain-clothed Turkish safety officers opened hearth on the two suspects as they ran previous him down the street, in accordance to Turkish media footage of the occasion. He was strike in the back again of his neck from a bullet fired from some distance, according to the autopsy.
Turkish officials and eyewitnesses mentioned it was unclear if Mr. Elci experienced been shot by condition security forces as the suspects fled, if he was hit by a bullet from one of the suspects, or if he experienced been targeted for assassination.
Turkish officers mentioned the suspects that the stability officers have been pursing had been component of the Kurdistan Workers’ Get together, or PKK, the outlawed militant team foremost the fight for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey.
The PKK issued a statement Sunday accusing the federal government of assassinating Mr. Elci for demanding Turkey’s place that the PKK is a terrorist team. The assertion did not say no matter whether the suspects allegedly becoming pursued by Turkish safety have been PKK customers.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Key Minister Ahmet Davutoglu condemned Mr. Elci’s dying as an assault on Turkey and urged folks to remain serene whilst security officers have out an investigation.
On Sunday, Mr. Davutoglu blamed the PKK for Mr. Elci’s dying and said that a handgun dropped subsequent to the attorney’s physique was the identical one utilised to kill at minimum 1 of the two Turkish law enforcement officers. But the handgun has not been joined to Mr. Elci’s shooting, and the investigation has been hampered by ongoing clashes in the community, officials mentioned.
On Sunday, Kurdish leaders speaking at Mr. Elci’s funeral in Diyarbakir questioned the rising government tale.
“We are appropriate to have our suspicions,” Selahattin Demirtas, the leader of Turkey’s Kurdish-led political party, informed mourners. “The condition was in no way the point out for all of us.”
Mr. Demirtas, head of the People’s Democratic Party, or HDP, mentioned he would not be cowed by the assault on Mr. Elci.
“If they believe they can scare and intimidate us, they are wrong,” he stated.
As head of the Diyarbakir Bar Association, Mr. Elci served as a passionate advocate for Kurdish legal rights. He was the concentrate on of repeated death threats and experienced been billed by point out prosecutors with making terrorist propaganda for an Oct tv interview where he challenged Turkey’s situation that the PKK is a terrorist group.
Mr. Elci denied creating terrorist propaganda. He also had on celebration criticized PKK violence, notably condemning the clashes having place in household neighborhoods.
In an interview with The Wall Road Journal before this thirty day period, Mr. Elci expressed despair about the spiraling violence.
“The current photo does not inspire any hope,” he mentioned. “Both sides are sharpening their knives and attacking each and every other. I am not optimistic. It seems like we will reside via a period of hefty conflict for a while.”
Mr. Elci also labored as an legal professional for a few Vice Information journalists facing similar costs for reporting on the conflict in southeastern Turkey.
Emma Sinclair-Webb, a senior researcher at Human Legal rights Observe, said Mr. Elci’s loss of life was a “dark day” for Turkey.
“The murder of Tahir Elci is a devastating blow, not only to human legal rights activists, but to all who want to see justice and rule of law prevail in Turkey,” she said.
John Bass, America’s ambassador to Turkey, hailed Mr. Elci as “a champion for all in search of a long term the place citizens can dwell in peace and dignity.”
—Emre Peker contributed to this report.
Compose to Ayla Albayrak at firstname.lastname@example.org