Turkish police most likely suspect in Kurdish lawyer's killing - researchers

Britain-based research agency Forensic Architecture said Turkish police officers were the most likely suspects in the murder of Kurdish lawyer and human rights activist Tahir Elçi, the BBC reported on Friday.

Elçi was shot dead while talking to reporters in Diyarbakır, the largest city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, on Nov. 28, 2015.

Following the murder, the Diyarbakır Bar Association, which Elçi chaired at the time of his death, asked Forensic Architecture, a research agency based in the University of London, to examine the evidence and independently investigate the circumstances of his death.

As Elçi was killed during an impromptu press conference, multiple cameras captured the moments leading up to his death. Forensic Architecture conducted its investigation using video, documentary and testimonial evidence provided by the Diyarbakır Bar Association as well as other open source material. Reconstructing the incident in a 3D digital model, the agency said three police officers on the scene were the most likely suspects.

The report also notes that for 13 minutes, Elçi's body lay on the ground with no one checking on him. 

Just before the incident, three police officers were involved in an armed clash with people they later said were members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). The then-prime minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said the PKK was responsible for Elçi's death. But Forensic Architecture said the two militants did not shoot at Elçi, and its report rules out the possibility of a long-range weapon killing Elçi. 

Forensic Architecture writes in their report that those three officers should be questioned as suspects in Elçi's killing. Two of the officers are seen to be firing in the direction of Elçi, while the third officer at one point at a line of fire at Elçi, despite being farther away, the report said. 

"It is quite possible that the killing was an unintentional consequence of the firefight," the report said. "However, the way it unfolded, and Elçi’s place within the long history of conflict in that region, make it inevitable that questions and suspicions will always surround the incident."

Diyarbakır Bar Association on Friday said in the light of the Forensic Architecture report, one of the three police officers at the crime scene was responsible for the killing and prosecutors should question these officers as suspects, opposition newspaper Birgün said.