DIYARBAKIR, Turkey Thousands gathered for the funeral of Tahir Elci, a Kurdish lawyer and human rights activist gunned down on Saturday in a southern eastern city at the center of months of violence.
The funerals for the two policemen killed in the attack in Diyarbakir also took place.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Sunday the gun found next to Elci’s body was the same weapon used in the attack on the police officers. He vowed to catch the killers.
But Selahattin Demirtas, co-chair of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), cast doubt on whether those responsible would be exposed.
“Our scepticism is fair as so many similar sufferings have taken place on our land in this past,” he said at the funeral. “We were never able to say goodbye to them with our minds at ease thinking those responsible will be caught.”
Police surveillance camera footage released on Saturday showed policemen being shot at from inside a cab, falling onto the ground before the passengers ran on. Another video shows plain clothed police shooting at two men running in the direction Elci was believed to be standing.
Elci, who was shot after speaking to journalists, 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.
Elci’s killing was likely to fuel further unrest in Turkey’s mostly Kurdish southeast.
A curfew had been called in the Sur district of Diyarbakir where the killing took place. On Sunday security forces continued operations to drive back the youth wing of the PKK, removing barricades and trenches, with occasional gunfire and explosions heard.
HDP deputies and leaders of Turkey’s local bar associations gathered at the funeral, where a casket draped in red, with bright yellow flowers was carried by a dense crowd.
Members of the Diyarbakir’s Bar Association stood in front of the hospital from where the body was taken, holding a banned which said “We will not forget you,” in Turkish and Kurdish.
Four investigators have begun work to determine whether the death was an assassination or the result of crossfire. Elci’s brother Ahmet, however, was clear that Elci had been a target:
“My brother is not our first martyr and neither will he be the last,” he said at the funeral. “As a Kurdish intellectual he was slain by the state. We have seen this state murdering Kurdish intellectuals throughout the history. But we will not give up and we will win.”
(Reporting by Seyhmus Cakan in Diyarbakir and Humeyra Pamuk in Istanbul, writing by Dasha Afanasieva, editing by Ros Russell)