President Erdogan of Turkey has told supporters that he will approve the death penalty being reintroduced if parliament votes for it.
Amid an ongoing crackdown since an attempted coup was suppressed, the president appeared outside his Istanbul residence as the crowd called for capital punishment to be restored.
“This issue will be discussed in parliament, these villains have carried out bombings and I believe that political parties in parliament will make the right decision,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his cheering followers. “As the (executive) authority, I hereby announce my decision that if they make such a move, I will approve it.”
“We will announce an important decision after NSC meeting on Wednesday” https://t.co/xl29dsvUE0— Turkish Presidency (@trpresidency) 19 July 2016
Erdogan highlighted other countries around the world such as America and China that have the death penalty, and said “only in European Union” nations was it banned.
Ankara outlawed capital punishment in 2004 as part of its bid to join the EU.
Officials in Brussels have warned that if Ankara restores capital punishment, its bid to join the bloc will be finished.
Speaking before Erdogan’s late-night intervention, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini noted that Turkey was a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights, which bans capital punishment across the continent.
“Reintroduction of the death penalty would prevent successful negotiations to join the EU,” said German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
All 28 EU foreign ministers, including new British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson who campaigned successfully for his country to leave the bloc, agreed a joint statement reminding Turkey that adhering to the union involved “unequivocal rejection of the death penalty”.
#Turkey – “No country can become member of the EU if it introduces the death penalty”
FedericaMog</a> <a href="https://t.co/1L4ZZok8az">pic.twitter.com/1L4ZZok8az</a></p>— European Commission (EU_Commission) July 18, 2016
Since the weekend’s attempted coup which saw a faction of the armed forces try to seize power, nearly 20,000 members of the police, civil service, judiciary and army have been detained or suspended. In the latest moves on Monday, Turkey’s police force was purged.
The EU commissioner dealing with Turkey’s membership bid, Johannes Hahn, said the swift rounding up of judges and others indicated the government had prepared a list beforehand.
In the firing line
Erdogan’s supporters at his rallies have demanded that coup leaders be executed.
Former Turkish air force chief Akin Ozturk has denied being being one of the the orchestrators behind Friday’s failed coup attempt. Gen Ozturk and 26 senior officers were brought before a tribunal on Monday and charged with treason. But in statement to the court Ozturk said he had not led the coup.
Western allies say Turkey must uphold the rule of law. The country is a NATO member whose cooperation in the fight against the self-proclaimed Islamic State is crucial to Washington.
“We stand squarely on the side of the elected leadership in Turkey. But we also firmly urge the government of Turkey to maintain calm and stability throughout the country,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said during a visit to Brussels.
The Turkish government claims the attempted coup was masterminded by Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric based in the United States who has a wide following in Turkey. He denies any involvement.
Ankara has called on Washington to hand Gulen over. Kerry said Turkey should furnish evidence “that withstands scrutiny”, rather than allegations.
There has been concern that President Erdogan is using the opportunity to consolidate his power and further a process of stifling dissent.
Turkey’s foreign ministry has said that criticism of the government’s response amounts to backing for the attempted coup.
‘A lucky escape’
The coup crumbled after Erdogan, on holiday with his family, called a TV station to urge his followers to take to the streets before flying to Istanbul. He told CNN in an interview that two of his bodyguards were killed and had he remained in Marmaris for another 10 or 15 minutes, he would have been killed or captured.
Security camera video has been released showing attacks on the presidential palace during the weekend’s failed coup attempt. More than 230 people were killed and 1,400 wounded in subsequent fighting.
The president has also said the government will build a history museum and a mosque in Istanbul’s Taksim square – which over the past few days has been filled with his supporters, but which three years ago was the scene of huge anti-government protests.