Thousands bid farewell to murdered bar head
DİYARBAKIR – Doğan News Agency
Lawyers hold pictures of killed lawyer Tahir Elçi as they mourn during his funeral in Diyarbakır the day after his killing, on November 29, 2015. AFP PhotoAround 50,000 people gathered in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır for the funeral ceremony of Tahir Elçi, the Diyarbakır Bar Association head who was killed during clashes that erupted after the killing of two police officers by gunmen.
Elçi was shot dead in Diyarbakır’s Sur district on Nov. 28 as gunmen rushed to the street, where Elçi was holding a press conference to call for peace, after allegedly killing two police officers and wounding another.
It remains unclear who shot Elçi.
The two police officers were identifiaped as Cengiz Erdur and Ahmet Çiftaslan.
Repeatedly hugging her son Arin and daughter Nazelin during the funeral, Elçi’s tearful wife, Türkan Elçi, said her husband, a human rights activist as well as a lawyer, had dedicated his life to those who were murdered and whose perpetrators were never found.
“A huge crowd [of dead people], whose murderers have not yet been found, will welcome you [Elçi]. They will tell you [Elçi] they have known you from the beginning. You dedicated your whole life to unsolved murders,” said Türkan Elçi in tears.
Diyarbakır Bar Association deputy head Ahmet Özmen said any death was a matter of sorrow.
Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB) Head Metin Feyzioğlu called on all heads of bar associations in Turkey to come to Diyarbakır on Nov. 28 following Elçi’s murder.
“This mean attack was not against our brother Tahir but against all of Turkey,” Feyzioğlu said before departing for Diyarbakır on Nov. 28.
Feyzioğlu also said they did not know who was behind the attack but that the target was Turkey.
“The target is our unity, our fraternity. For this reason we should all stand together as one against this attack,” he added.
The two police officers killed ahead of Elçi’s death, meanwhile, were buried in two separate ceremonies in their hometowns.
Erdur, who was killed moments before the shooting death of Elçi, was buried on Nov. 29 in his hometown of Elazığ in eastern Turkey, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
Çiftaslan was buried in the southern province of Kahramanmaraş on Nov. 29, Doğan News Agency reported.
Speaking after Elçi’s death, Turkish Interior Minister Efkan Ala said in a press meeting that attackers opened fire at security forces from a taxi after Elçi’s press meeting, killing Çiftaslan, while Erdur was heavily wounded in the attack before succumbing to his injuries.
An initial forensic report said Elçi was killed by a single bullet to the back of his neck fired from long range.
A curfew was imposed in Sur after shooting death of Elçi.
“This incident shows how righteous Turkey is in its determination in struggle against terrorism,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Nov. 28 in a speech during a visit to the northwestern province of Balıkesir, vowing to continue the struggle until the end.
The Diyarbakır Bar said in a tweet on Nov. 28 that it was an assassination.
Elçi and accompanying lawyers had just finished issuing a press statement to condemn special forces teams for damaging the base of Diyarbakır’s famous Four-Legged Minaret at the time of gunshots heard.
Doğan News Agency quoted eyewitnesses as saying a bearded man fired at Elçi, but it is still uncertain whether the bar chief was targeted.
State-run Anadolu Agency claimed the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was responsible for the attack within minutes of the incident.
Anadolu Agency reporter Aziz Aslan was also wounded.
A crowd that gathered on Istanbul’s central İstiklal Avenue to pay tribute to Elçi was attacked by police water cannon. Protests were held in other cities such as İzmir and Antalya.
Last month, a prosecutor demanded up to seven years and six months in jail for Elçi on the grounds of “making propaganda of a terror organization,” after remarks he made regarding the PKK.
The Istanbul Bakırköy Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office prepared the indictment after Elçi said “the PKK is not a terror organization” during a live TV show on CNN Türk on Oct. 14. It demanded that he be jailed for between one year and six months and seven years and six months.
Elçi was first detained by police in Diyarbakır late on Oct. 19 and was released on probation on Oct. 20, but he was barred from traveling out of Turkey.
The indictment was sent to the Bakırköy 2nd Court of Serious Crimes, along with a statement about why the PKK should be defined as a terror organization.
Stating that the PKK should be defined as a terror organization because its actions contained elements of violence, the indictment said there was always a legal and legitimate way to obtain rights and that resorting to violence was never legitimate.
Elçi’s background in law was also mentioned in the indictment, which stated that “as a lawyer he should have known what an offense is and what it not … He should have calculated the social effect of his words due to the social position he holds.”
The Bakırköy 2nd Court of Serious Crimes is expected to decide within 15 days whether or not to accept or reject the indictment.
“I stand behind my words and believe that they are true. The words I said cannot constitute a crime,” Elçi said after being released on probation on Oct. 20.
Elçi was not known to be a supporter of the PKK. “Forget about being a PKK member, he’s not even a sympathizer. He’s a man of peace,” Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş said in the wake of his detention last month.
Among those who attended Elçi’s funeral by a statue symbolizing the right to life at a park were Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy head Sezgin Tanrıkulu, several HDP deputies, Diyarbakır Co-Mayor Gültan Kışanak, the co-mayor of the southeastern province of Mardin, Ahmet Türk, and the district mayor of Istanbul’s Beşiktaş district, Murat Haznedar.