PARIS: Thousands of demonstrators marched in central Paris on Saturday to pay tribute to three Kurdish activists murdered a decade ago. The march, an annual event since the killings on January 9, 2013, came two weeks after an eerily similar triple slaying on December 23 at the Kurdish Cultural Centre in Paris-just a few minutes' walk from the site of the earlier shootings. The organizers said more than 25,000 people from all over Europe had joined the rally.

They carried banners with the pictures of the 2013 victims and slogans such as "The Turkish government has massacred three more Kurds" as they walked from the Gare du Nord station in the north of the capital towards Place de la Republique, a popular spot for demonstrations. In 2013, Sakine Cansiz, 54,  a founder of the PKK Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a long insurgency against Turkey, was killed execution-style with shots to the head.

Two other women were killed in the same way: Fidan Dogan, 28 and Leyla Saylemez, 24 at the Kurdish Information Centre in Paris' 10th district. The PKK, which fights for increased autonomy for the Kurdish population, is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

Turkey is a member of the NATO and considered as crucial for the protection of the military alliance's southeastern flank. A Turkish maintenance worker at Charles de Gaulle airport had been due to go on trial for the 2013 attack, but he died from a brain tumor shortly before his trial was due to start, in December 2016.

Kurdish activists in France, home to the second-biggest Kurdish community in the European Union after Germany, have always alleged that the Turkish secret service ordered the killings. In May 2019, a French anti-terrorist judge was tasked with re-opening the investigation. The victims' families say the probe has been hampered by lack of access to secret documents that they say France was refusing to declassify. "France has a debt of justice towards us," Metin Cansiz, the brother of Sakine Cansiz, told AFP ahead of Saturday's march.

His family, he said, had lost a loved one "sacrificed" on the altar of Franco-Turkish relations. In last month's attack, Abdurrahman Kizil, singer Mir Perwer and Emine Kara, leader of the Movement of Kurdish Women in France linked to the PKK, were shot dead by a man named as William Malet. French prosecutors say the suspect, a retired rail worker, had admitted to wanting to "murder migrants", but several Kurds who spoke to AFP said they suspected a "terror" act orchestrated by the Turkish state. The murders sparked a major demonstration by Kurds in Paris on Decmeber 24. - AFP