A prominent Kurdish lawyer and rights activist was shot in the head and killed on Saturday, in an incident likely to fuel further unrest in Turkey’s mostly Kurdish southeast.
The pro-Kurdish HDP Party called the killing of Tahir Elci a “planned assassination” and urged people to protest. Videos from the scene showed a gun battle in the street, in which two policemen died, and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said it was unclear whether Elci was caught in crossfire or assassinated.
If it was the latter, he said, the target was clear. “The target is Turkey. It’s an attack on peace and harmony in Turkey.”
President Tayyip Erdogan said the shooting, which took place in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, showed Turkey was right in “its determination to fight terrorism”.
Elci was facing trial for saying the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) was not a terrorist organization, as the government describes it. He had, however, denounced PKK violence.
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.
Kurdish forces are fighting Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria, making them an important ally of the United States against the militants — something Turkey fears could embolden its own Kurdish minority.
Hours after Elci’s death, police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse hundreds of people marching in Istanbul to protest against the killing. The marchers chanted: “Shoulder to shoulder against fascism,”…