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Thousands Gather for Funeral of Pro-Kurdish Turkish Lawyer

Thousands of people march during the funeral of Tahir Elci, president of the Diyarbakir Bar Association and a leading human rights defender, in Diyarbakir, Turkey, Nov. 29, 2015. Elci was killed Saturday while making a press statement intended to call attention to damage done to the 1,500-year-old Four-Legged Minaret Mosque by recent clashes between Turkish security forces and Kurdistan Workers' Party militants. The banner in Turkish and Kurdish reads: " We will not forget you."

Thousands of people have gathered in Turkey for the funeral of prominent pro-Kurdish lawyer and human rights activist Tahir Elci.

Elci was killed Saturday during a gun battle between Kurdish rebels and security forces in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir. Two policemen were also killed in the violence.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutolgu said it was not clear whether Elci's death was a "terrorist attack" or if he was caught in crossfire.

Witnesses say assailants opened fire on Tahir Elci and other activists while they gave a press statement to a gathering in the mainly Kurdish province of Diyarbakir. The shooting, they say, triggered a firefight between Kurdish rebels and security forces.

Elci served as chairman of the Diyarbakir Bar Association. Turkish authorities arrested him in October for saying the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is not a terrorist organization. He was released pending his trial.

Human Rights Watch senior researcher Emma Sinclair-Webb described his killing as a "very dark day for Turkey". "The murder of Tahir Elci is a devastating blow not only to human rights activists but to all who want to see justice and rule of law prevail in Turkey," she said following his death Saturday.

More than 1,000 people took to the streets of Istanbul late Saturday to protest the killing. Turkish police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse them.