On the seventh anniversary of prominent Kurdish lawyer and human rights defender Tahir Elçi’s high-profile murder, his wife Türkan Elçi called for justice.
The facts of Tahir Elçi‘s case, who was shot dead in Diyarbakır, southeast Turkey, on 28 November 2015 at a press release on the curfews imposed on Kurdish cities, still wait to be uncovered.
At a commemoration held for the anniversary of his death, Türkan Elçi said, “We will stand against those who dictate to the society to hold grudges, to hate, to die and to kill. We defend the sanctity of the right to life and demand an honourable life. We will not cease to ask for justice, which is our right.”
Diyarbakir Bar Association Chair Nahit Eren described Elçi’s murder as “the beginning of a dark period” and highlighted that the perpetrators still have not been identified.
“There is no murder that the state cannot clarify, there are murders that the state does not clarify,” said Eren implying that the lack of progress in Elçi’s murder case was intentional, and argued that in this case the court’s attitude was “reluctant and unwilling”.
Elçi was murdered after the collapse of a two-year peace process, when conflicts flared up between Turkish security forces and Kurdish militants.
In the mainly Kurdish populated southeast, Turkey conducted large-scale police and military operations, accompanied by curfews. Dozens of locals were killed, and Kurdish militants responded with an armed resistance.
As Elçi called for an end to the violence at a press conference, a shootout started between police and Kurdish militants, and he was shot in the back of the head. International observers have noted the lack of an independent investigation, and the refusal to investigate police officers as suspects.
Previously, in October 2015 Elçi had said on TV that the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was not a terrorist organisation, but an armed political movement with political demands and with significant social support. These comments resulted in a law suit against Elçi, and he was temporarily detained on terrorism charges.
Elçi was killed just five weeks later.
In September 2021, Ahmet Davutoğlu, the prime minister of the time, publicly described Elçi’s murder as a political assassination. The lawyers in the murder case requested that Davutoğlu be heard in court as a witness.
In a hearing on 15 June, the court accepted this request. However, in an interim hearing on 19 September, the court reversed this decision without the knowledge of the intervening lawyers who had made the request. At the 6th hearing held on 23 November, the court rejected Elçi’s lawyers’ objections about this decision and adjourned the hearing to 5 July 2023.
Nahit Eren drew attention to irregularities in the investigation of Elçi’s murder, noting that the crime scene investigation had been carried out three-and-a-half months after the assassination, and the trial started more than four years later.
By contrast, it took just nine days for the Turkish judiciary to prosecute Tahir Elçi for his statements on a live broadcast, which lawyers say made him a political target.