Friday 21 October 2016

'We want death penalty' chant Turkish crowds as 6,000 held in swoops

Demonstrators at Taksim square in Istanbul.
Demonstrators at Taksim square in Istanbul.
A woman lays her head on the coffin of a victim of the failed July 15 coup
An unidentified man uses his belt to hit Turkish soldiers involved in the coup attempt

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has indicated that Turkey could reinstate capital punishment in the wake of Friday's failed coup attempt in which at least 265 people died.

Mr Erdogan spoke to his supporters in front of his Istanbul residence yesterday evening.

His speech was punctuated by frequent calls of "we want the death penalty" from the large crowd, to which Mr Erdogan responded: "We hear your request. In a democracy, whatever the people want they will get."

Adding that they will be in contact with Turkey's opposition parties to reach a position on capital punishment, he said: "We will not delay this decision for long. Because those who attempt a coup in this country must pay."

Turkey has not executed anyone since 1984 and capital punishment was legally abolished in 2004 as part of its bid to join the European Union.


Meanwhile, Turkey's justice minister Bekir Bozdag said some 6,000 people have been detained in a government crackdown on alleged coup plotters and government opponents.

Mr Bozdag said he was confident that the United States would return Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen to Turkey.

The Turkish president has blamed Mr Gulen and his followers for the failed military coup on Friday night, but Mr Gulen denies any involvement in or knowledge about the attempted coup. The US says it will look at any evidence Turkey has to offer against Mr Gulen, and judge accordingly.

Prayers were being read simultaneously from Turkey's 85,000 mosques to rally the country to defend its democracy and honour those who died in the attempted military coup.

Already, three of the country's top generals have been detained, alongside hundreds of soldiers. The government also dismissed nearly 3,000 judges and prosecutors from their posts, while investigators were preparing court cases to send the conspirators to trial on charges of attempting to overthrow the government.

The botched coup, which saw war planes fly over key government installations and tanks roll up in major cities briefly, ended hours later when loyal government forces including military and police regained control of the military and civilians took to the streets in support of Mr Erdogan.

At least 265 people were killed and over 1,400 were wounded. Government officials said at least 104 conspirators were killed.

Chanting, dancing and waving flags, tens of thousands of Turks marched through the streets to defend democracy and support the country's long-time leader.

Rather than toppling Turkey's strongman president, the attempted coup appears to have bolstered Mr Erdogan's popularity and grip on power.

Gozde Kurt, a 16-year-old student at the rally in Istanbul, said: "Just a small group from Turkish armed forces stood up against our government ... but we, the Turkish nation, stand together and repulse it back."


The Yeni Safak newspaper used the headline "Traitors of the country", while the Hurriyet newspaper declared "Democracy's victory."

However, the government crackdowns raised concerns over the future of democracy in Turkey, which has long prided itself on its democratic and secular traditions despite being in a region swept by conflict and extremism.

Mr Erdogan's survival has turned him into a "sort of a mythical figure" and could further erode democracy in Turkey, said Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish research program at The Washington Institute.

"It will allow him to crack down on liberty and freedom of association, assembly, expression and media in ways that we haven't seen before," he said.

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