Erdoğan doesn’t rule out death penalty for coup soldiers
ISTANBULPresident Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has reiterated that the death penalty was not off the table for those suspected of plotting a coup against the Turkish government, in an interview with CNN broadcast on July 18. It would take a parliamentary decision in the form of a constitutional measure to make the death penalty an option, Erdoğan said.
“Leaders will have to get together and discuss it and if they accept to discuss it then I as president will approve any decision that comes out of the parliament,” he told CNN’s Becky Anderson, while adding that the “Turkish people have made it clear they want death for the ‘terrorists’ who plotted the coup.”
“The people now have the idea, after so many terrorist incidents, that these terrorists should be killed. That’s where they are, they don’t see any other outcome to it,” he also said.
“’Why should I keep them and feed them in prisons, for years to come?’ That’s what the people say,” he said. “They want a swift end to it, because people lost relatives, lost neighbors, lost children... they’re suffering, so the people are very sensitive and we have to act very sensibly and sensitively.”
Turkey abolished the death penalty for peacetime crimes in 2002, followed by a total ban in 2004 as part of a series of human rights reforms undertaken for its membership bid for the European Union.
If Turkey does reintroduce the death penalty, it won’t be joining the European Union, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said early on July 18.
Calling the July 15 failed coup attempt a “clear crime of treason,” Erdoğan said he was on vacation with his wife, son-in-law, and grandchildren in the resort town of Marmaris when he was informed on July 15 that there was “some kind of movement” in Istanbul, Ankara and other cities.
With his family and a few “very close people” from his inner circle, he followed recommendations to move to a safer location by plane.
While they were in the air, the air traffic control tower at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport was under the control of soldiers attempting the coup, he said. Upon discovering the airstrip lights were turned off, he and his pilots considered landing using onboard lights.
The air traffic control tower was retaken and the plane was able to land, Erdoğan said, but they soon heard booms.
“Starting from the moment we landed, F-16s started flying above us, very close to the ground,” Erdoğan said.
As tanks rolled through the streets of the capital, Ankara, and Istanbul, Erdoğan said he addressed the nation via FaceTime because the national TV broadcast was not reaching people’s televisions.
Speaking through a CNN Türk anchor who held her phone so viewers could see it, he urged people to stand up to the military faction behind the uprising, saying, “Go to the streets and give them their answer.”
Throughout the ordeal it “never crossed my mind” that he would no longer be president, he said.
Within 12 hours the coup had been foiled and the government had “the results we wanted,” he said.
The “invaders” would be dealt with quickly, he added.
Erdoğan rejected any claims that he would use the attempted coup, considered an act of terrorism by his government, as justification for a crackdown against his opponents.
Erdoğan said he and his government had to do the “right thing” and that an “oppressive figure” would never have received 52 percent of the popular vote, a reference to his win in the 2014 presidential election.
He added that he had “no issues” when it came to a free press. But, if there were media outlets that sided with and supported the plotters of the attempted coup, the justice system would need to take steps, he said.
With arrests made in Turkey and eight soldiers who fled to Greece awaiting extradition, Erdoğan also addressed the status of self-exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen.
Erdoğan has previously blamed Gülen for the attempted coup, a claim that Gülen has denied.
A formal written request for the extradition of Gülen from the United States will be submitted within days, Erdoğan told Anderson.
When asked what he would do if the United States refused to extradite Gülen, he said, “We have a mutual agreement of extradition of criminals.”
“So now you ask someone to be extradited, you’re my strategic partner, I do obey, I do abide by that, but you don’t do the same thing - well, of course, there should be reciprocity in the types of things,” the president continued.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States hadn’t yet received a formal request from Turkey for Gülen’s extradition.