State-run TÜBİTAK expert claims video footage in Tahir Elçi case 'doctored'

During the eighth hearing of slain bar association head Tahir Elçi’s case, an expert report by the state-run Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) claimed that the video footage of the shooting was doctored. 

Duvar English

An expert report by the state-run Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) alleged that the security video footage of the shooting that killed Diyarbakır Bar Association head and human rights lawyer Tahir Elçi was doctored. 

The 8th hearing of Tahir Elçi’s assassination case began on Nov. 29. Three police officers were accused of “causing death by conscious negligence,” and are tried on release despite the request of the Elçi lawyers. One member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was accused of “causing death by potential malicious intent,” and is still on the run. 

Tahir Elçi’s wife and Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Türkan Elçi, Turkish Bar Association head Erinç Sağkan, heads of 18 provincial bar associations, CHP and People’s Democracy and Equality Party (HEDEP) deputies, and civil society representatives were present for the hearing.  

The expert report prepared by TÜBİTAK arrived in court, according to reporting by the news outlet “New Life.” The report was prepared on evidential security camera footage from a restaurant that captured the shooting that killed Elçi. 

The report claimed that the video footage was from 2010, and was doctored to show the date of the attack. 

The lawyer of the Elçi family Gamze Yalçın İlboğa took the stand and said that the prosecution failed to conduct an effective investigation, as it left evidence at the crime scene and did not properly conserve evidence. 

Elçi's lawyers also drew attention to the video recording presented by the defendant police officers. They stated that a 12-second fragment that coincided with the moment of shooting was deliberately removed from the video.

The police officer had claimed that he had stopped recording once he heard gunshots. The TÜBİTAK report stated that the footage was not edited or deleted. 

Elçi’s lawyers objected to the TÜBİTAK report and said they have been trying to access all the video footage that has been “directly modified and obscured” for eight years. The lawyers added that the disappearance of all visual evidence of the moment was questionable. “We know this is a politically motivated murder,” said lawyer Karaman, and requested a reinvestigation into the footage. 

Tahir Elçi’s murder case is ongoing eight years after his death. The Diyarbakır Bar Association had previously asked Forensic Architecture, a research agency based at the University of London, to investigate Elçi’s death by analyzing camera footage.

The Forensic Architecture reported 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 involved in the case as suspects. 

Tahir 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 the 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. During the commotion, Elçi was shot from the back of his head and died at the scene.