Turkish opposition says police bullet
may have killed Kurdish lawyer
Daren Butler, Reuters, Nov 30 2015
ISTANBUL – A prominent Kurdish lawyer gunned down in southeastern Turkey appeared to have been shot by a policeman who was firing on suspects fleeing the scene of an attack on fellow officers, a deputy from Turkey’s pro-Kurdish opposition said on Monday. Diyarbakir city chief prosecutor Ramazan Solmaz said prosecutors and police forensic teams working at the site of Elci’s killing were forced to flee on Monday when militants opened fire and threw explosives at an armored police vehicle. Saturday’s killing of Tahir Elci, a lawyer and human rights activist, and Monday’s brief incident underlined tensions in the mostly Kurdish region that have grown since a ceasefire with the PKK collapsed in July. PM Davutoglu has said Elci may have been caught in the crossfire between police and the militants. Meral Danis Bestas, a deputy for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), sent an email to the interior minister after viewing a video of the incident which took place in a narrow street during a shoot-out between police and militants. In the video, plain-clothes police standing near Elci are seen firing automatic pistols at gunmen fleeing the scene of the attack in Diyarbakir, the region’s largest city. Bestas wrote:
The footage shows a figure running in the direction of Tahir Elci and the police opening fire in the direction of that person. A plain-clothes policeman dressed in brown is shown opening fire in the direction of Tahir Elci and then he looks as if to see whether the cameras are filming him. The autopsy report and the camera footage point to Elci dying as a result of a police bullet.
Shortly before Elci’s killing, two police officers were shot dead after they stopped a “suspicious vehicle” in a nearby street in what Solmaz, the chief prosecutor, said was an attack by PKK militants. The HDP, which is represented in parliament and has called for an end to the violence, said Elci had complained of death threats. “Tahir Elci…was the target of some deep structures which are known to have carried out unsolved killings and which today give open support to the AKP government,” it said. Unsolved political killings were frequent at the height of the conflict between the state and the PKK in the 1990s. Elci was facing trial for saying the PKK was not a terrorist organization. The autopsy showed one bullet had penetrated the back of Elci’s neck. The driver of the taxi in which the suspects arrived at the scene was detained and an arrest warrant was issued for one identified suspect, the prosecutor said.
The Killing of Tahir Elci
Omur Sahin Keyif, Counterpunch, Nov 30 2015
ISTANBUL – Turkey is once more in crisis. A leading pro-Kurdish lawyer has been killed. The streets fill once more with protestors. Tahir Elci, Chairman of the Diyarbakir Bar Association and a respected human rights lawyer, was killed on Saturday in Diyarbakir, south-eastern Turkey. He said at a press conference before he was shot:
We don’t want weapons, clashes and military operations in the birthplace and home of many civilizations.
Violence in Diyarbakir had damaged many historical places in the city and in the surrounding region. The climate of war between the state and the Kurdish groups had been exacerbated since the June elections. Hundreds of people had died, including children. Many majority-Kurdish cities, such as Nusaybin, Cizre and Sur, are under curfew. Elci had called upon both sides for a ceasefire. Instead, Elci fell to the guns. His death was videotaped. Who shot Elci? It is still not clear. People in Turkey are used to seeing such images every decade. Turkey’s history is one of suppressed political murders. In 1989, Musa Anter, a Kurdish writer, poet and journalist, was killed by Abd’ul=Kadir Aygan, a surrendered PKK fighter and member of JITEM (Informal Structure of Genderma Intelligence Agency). During the 1990s, JITEM was accused of the murder of “unknown assailants” in Kurdistan. The Judiciary acquitted all JITEM suspects. Elic had been one of the lawyers in a JITEM case, which closed at the start of November. Before the JITEM trial, on Oct 15, Elci participated a discussion program on CNN-Turk and ,ade the apparently illegal statement:
The PKK is not a terrorist organization.
Five days later, on Oct 20, Elci was arrested for “terrorist propaganda.” The authorities released him the same day. Elci faced seven and a half years in prison. Elci’s statement that the PKK is not a terrorist organization earned him the wrath of the nationalists. In an interview, Elci said of the backlash:
In social media I’ve received hundreds of tweets which threatened me with death. In some tweets they describe how they would like to kill me. They give details. And also we got maybe tons of phone calls.
Tahir Elci joins a list of prominent intellectuals assassinated in Turkey since the killing of Musa Anter in 1989. In 2007, during the AKP’s first term in government, Hrant Dink was killed in Istanbul. Nationalists routinely attacked Dink, an Armenian journalist (editor-in-chief of Agos and columnist for BirGün), for his brave columns. He called for peace between the various nationalities that lived in Turkey: the Armenians, the Kurds and the Turks among others. Frequently harassed by the authorities, Dink did not back down. He was hit by a nationalist hitman related to Turkish intelligence MIT. His assassination took place in the middle of the day, in the middle of a busy street. The judiciary has not moved the case along these past eight years. What relates the Anter and Dink cases is the complicity between the state and the murderers. Every single case and the lack of justice for the victims encourages the next such case. This is also so with the major terrorist attacks in Turkey: Roboski (35 dead), Suruc (32 dead), Ankara (102 dead)… After Tahir Elci’s killing, PM Davutoğlu said:
There might have been a plan to assassinate Elci. There is a second scenario: that the police forces opened fire to protect people there after an attack by terrorists. Elci was caught in the crossfire.
Pro-AKP media have started to release fabricated reports claiming that the PKK is responsible for the murder. The government immediately said that the investigation would be conducted in secret and called for a media blackout. If the trends are normal, Elci’s case will also be blacked out. Mud has been thrown into the investigation. The finger will not point toward the real assailants. Peace between the State and the Kurds recedes from the horizon. The peace talks between 2012 and 2014 were not based on the Constitution. AKP threatened the Kurdish parties, that if they did not agree to this or that, the process would be stopped. Violence against Kurdish leaders and intellectuals continued, murdered in interrogation rooms and in the streets. JITEM is no longer active. In its place, a radical Islamic organization calling itself Esadullah has emerged in the current conflict. Their intimidation is routine. Walls are signed with their slogans “Esadullah team has arrived!” It is chilling. It follows brutal nationalist jargon: “You’ll See the Power of the Turk!” and: “If You’re a Turk, Be Proud! If Not, Then Obey!” This has been the atmosphere in the Kurdish majority regions. Elci literally means envoy. Tahir Elci had been named the Peace Envoy by the opposition media. He devoted his life to peace and to human rights. His death decreases the chance of peace. The state knows that it is untouchable. Kurds are silent. They will not remain patient. HDP’s Selahattin Demirtas, who was himself caught in a attempted assassination last week, gave a sad speech during Elci’s funeral. He said:
What killed Tahrir was not the state, but statelessness.
Demirtas, for the first time in a great long while, has mentioned the need for a Kurdish state. This mental opening between the Kurds and the Turkish state might portend a bloodier era in the near future.