An unidentified gunman on Saturday killed a top Kurdish lawyer who had been criticised in Turkey for saying the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) was not a terrorist organisation.
Witnesses said bar association president Tahir Elci was shot in the head after making a statement to the media in Diyarbakir, the largest city in Turkey’s troubled, mainly Kurdish southeast.
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.
“The moment the statement ended, the crowd was sprayed with bullets,” a local official from the pro-Kurdish HDP party, Omer Tastan, told Reuters.
“A single bullet struck Elci in the head,” he said, adding that 11 people had also been injured in the incident.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech shortly after the incident that a policeman had also been killed during the attack in Diyarbakir.
“This incident shows how Turkey is right in its determination in the fight against terrorism,” Erdogan 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,” Dogan news agency reporter Felat Bozarslan said.
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 organisation. The PKK is demanding greater autonomy for Turkey’s Kurds.