An unidentified gunman killed a prominent Kurdish lawyer and rights activist on Saturday in what the pro-Kurdish HDP Party called a “planned assassination”, urging people to take to the streets in protest.

Witnesses said Tahir Elci was shot in the head after making a statement to media in Diyarbakir, the largest city in Turkey’s troubled, mainly Kurdish southeast where he was president of the local bar association. A policeman was also killed in an ensuing exchange of fire.

Elci had been criticized in Turkey for saying the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) was not a terrorist organization, though he had denounced PKK violence. He was facing trial over his comments which had infuriated state prosecutors.

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.

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