Turkey: Index condemns killing of lawyer during press conference

Index on Censorship condemns the killing of Turkish human rights lawyer Tahir Elci, who was shot during a press conference on Saturday.

Elci, was briefly detained and questioned last month for saying during a live news program that the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, is not a terrorist organisation. According to The Guardian newspaper, he was charged soon after with making terrorist propaganda and was facing more than seven years in prison.

The human rights defender was the lawyer for Mohammed Rasool, a journalist with Vice News, who remains in prison awaiting trial on charges of aiding a terrorist organisation.

The shooting comes amid a rapid deterioration for free expression in Turkey. Index on Censorship was part of a delegation to the country last month that met officials and journalists including Can Dundar, editor-in-chief of Turkish daily newspaper Cumhuriyet.

Can Dundar and Erdem Gul, the newspaper’s Ankara bureau chief, were both arrested and charged last week with aiding an armed terrorist organisation.

“Index condemns the murder of Tahir Elci and urges the Turkish authorities to fulfil its democratic obligations to protect the legal and media professions. We also ask the European Union to do more to hold Turkey, which seeks membership of the EU, to account,” said Index on Censorship CEO Jodie Ginsberg.

Turkey’s deterioration has been documented by Index’s Mapping Media Freedom project, which monitors media violations across Europe. There have been 177 verified reports in the country since the map was launched in May 2014.