PHOTO: Lawyer Tahir Elci, killed on Saturday in Diyarkabir Province (Ilyas Akengin/AFP)

Prominent Kurdish lawyer Tahir Elci was shot dead on Saturday as gunmen opened fire on a gathering in a mainly-Kurdish area in southeast Turkey on Saturday.

Witnesses said the attackers opened fire on Elci and 40 other activists as they were giving a press statement near a mosque in Diyarbakir Province. Police immediately returned fire.

Elci, head of the bar in Diyarbakir, was hit in the head and died in hospital. Three policemen and an unknown number of journalists were wounded.

Elci had been detained in October on charges of spreading “terrorist propaganda”, following an interview in which he said the outlawed Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) was not a terrorist organisation. He was released pending trial but faced up to seven years in prison.

Southeastern Turkey has been beset by violence, with a ceasefire between the Turkish Government and the PKK collapsing in July.