The first court hearing with regards to the murder of Kurdish lawyer and human rights activist Tahir Elçi took place on Oct. 21, five years after his death.
Three police officers and a man claimed to be a member of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) stand as suspects in the murder case.Five years later, slain Kurdish lawyer's murder still unresolved as claims of intelligence neglect remain
Prosecutors are seeking from three to nine years for the three police officers in question on charges of “causing death with conscious negligence” whereas seeking three aggravated life sentences for Uğur Yakışır, who is tried in absentia. Yakışır is also accused of murdering two police officers that were killed on the same day with Elçi.
None of the three defendant police officers attended the Oct. 21 hearing in person in the courtroom, but instead appeared via the Audio and Visual Information System (SEGBİS). This was criticized by Elçi family's lawyers who said that judges should make it obligatory for the defendants to be present in the courtroom, as otherwise an effective investigation into the killing cannot be carried out.
As the judges insisted that Elçi family's lawyers question the defendants via the SEBGİS system, the lawyers said that this is against the normal procedure and the case was being handled in a “negligent” and “impartial” way.Evidence in Tahir Elçi murder case was covered up: Forensics worker
Eventually the lawyers demanded that the judges recuse themselves from the case. After taking a recess, the court board ruled that the demand for a recusal will be considered by an upper court, thereby adjourning the hearing until March 3, 2021.
Elçi, who was head of the Diyarbakır Bar Association, was killed in broad daylight on Nov. 28, 2015, while speaking to the media to call for an end to ongoing conflict between Turkish security forces and the PKK.
Elçi’s press conference was interrupted when two alleged members of the PKK ran through the scene, moments after they had shot and killed two police officers nearby.
Police who had been at the press conference opened fire as the pair ran past, and several shots were fired. Elçi received a bullet to the back of his head and lost his life at the scene of the incident.Slain Diyarbakır bar head's wife to work as intern lawyer in case into his killing
Diyarbakır Bar Association had previously asked Forensic Architecture, a research agency based in the University of London, to investigate Elçi’s death by analyzing the camera footages. The Forensic Architecture had said in their report in 2019 that three police officers on the scene were the most likely suspects, ruling out the possibility of alleged PKK members shooting at Elçi. It was only after this report that the three police officers who had fired shots on the day were interviewed as suspects rather than merely as eyewitnesses. They are now indicted in the prosecution.
There have been other obstacles to securing an effective investigation into Elçi’s killing. Authorities failed to examine the firearms that the police carried at the scene of the killing and failed to locate the bullet that shot Elçi. There have been also extreme delays into the prosecution process, with prosecutors having been replaced several times.
Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) group deputy chair Saruh Oluç commented on the murder case saying that the court board's allowing the defendant police officers to appear by a video link at the first hearing is a further evidence that the judiciary is “stalling the trial.”
“The defendant police officers connected via SEGBİS. The judiciary, which has been stalling the trial for the last five years not to hand down a punishment to those who murdered Tahir Elçi, has in fact given its first sign how this trial will proceed,” Oluç said.