Formulas for Gülen’s execution

Formulas for Gülen’s execution

During the cabinet meeting presided over by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan earlier this week, the reinstatement of capital punishment was among the key issues. He looked in the face of cabinet ministers and asked: “What will happen for my 241 martyrs [killed during the military coup attempt]? Will those who killed them not give an account of it?” 

The legal arrangement that abolished the death penalty was overseen by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in 2004. Cabinet this week discussed the issue from the perspective of the EU acquis, Protocol Number 13 in which Turkey totally abolished capital punishment, and Article 90 of the constitution. The drawbacks of taking the death penalty to a referendum were also discussed. 

It was Erdoğan himself who brought the subject of reinstating the death penalty to the agenda. “If parliament reintroduces the death penalty, I would endorse it,” he said. 

Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, meanwhile, has adopted a calmer stance on the issue. The prevailing belief had been that capital punishment would not be brought to parliament, so Erdoğan will never in the end need to ratify it. However, with Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli’s recent declaration that they should “finish this business together,” it became impossible to ignore the parliamentary route. 

Personally, I don’t think President Erdoğan has been bluffing. I believe he is sincere on the subject of the death penalty.   

There are two particularly important aspects to reintroducing the death penalty. The first is whether it would be retroactive; the second is about what it would cover. 

My opinion is not as clear-cut as fellow Hürriyet columnist Ahmet Hakan, who wrote that there is no way the death penalty could include Fethullah Gülen or Abdullah Öcalan. 

The reintroduced death penalty would cover war crimes, threats of war, terrorism, coup d’états, attempted coup d’états and the sexual abuse of children. 

On Oct. 3, 2001, with an arrangement carried out by Constitution Committee head Ahmet İyimaya, a clause was introduced stating that “the death penalty is inapplicable apart from war, imminent threat of war, and terror crimes.” This clause was abolished from our legal system in 2004 by the AK Party. 

Now, coup d’états, attempted coup d’états and sexual abuse of children will be added to the exceptional cases in that original 2001 clause. However, an internal debate has still not been held within the AK Party and no work has yet been launched. 

Article 15 of the constitution states that “offences and penalties cannot be made retroactive.” There is no objection to this clause but President Erdoğan wants the death penalty to be reintroduced, especially for the July 15 coup attempt. In this case, will the death sentence be valid for Fethullah Gülen? Legal experts point to the concepts of “process crimes, continual crimes, chain crimes and uninterrupted crimes,” and similar formulas are being looked into.  

The investigation into the July 15 coup attempt is still ongoing. New information and documents are being found every day. Just yesterday another name, Kemal Batmaz, appeared alongside the number one civilian name in the coup, the incognito Adil Öksüz, who is accused of carrying out the coup plan for Gülen. Further into the process, it is possible that new evidence and witnesses will emerge proving that Gülen was the leader of the coup. 

When President Erdoğan asks about bringing the deaths of 241 people to account, he is not only referring to those who dropped bombs and opened fire on the people. He is also targeting those who took part in the coup and committed these murders, as well as the planners and rulers of the coup, together with the leader of the coup.   

In short, a formula is being worked on to ensure that the death penalty covers the July 15 coup attempt and Gülen himself. 

So, will the coup plotters be sentenced to death but the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorists who kill soldiers be left out of the scope of capital punishment? Will the MHP agree to a formula that does not cover the PKK? 

Because of jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan’s life sentence verdict, he cannot be sentenced to death for the same crimes. However, if proof of a connection to a new act is found and he is sentenced to death in a new trial, it is different. 

Clearly, there are endless formulas in justice.