Erdoğan says Turkey may hold another referendum to reinstate death penalty

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said Turkey may hold a new referendum on whether to reinstate the death penalty following a public referendum that will be held on April 16 on a constitutional reform package introducing an executive presidency in Turkey.

Speaking at an inauguration ceremony in the western province of Manisa, Erdoğan reiterated on Friday that “the [public] demand for reinstatement of capital punishment will be brought to Parliament,” and added “I wish that the moment it is passed by Parliament, I could approve it. But there is a problem, it requires a constitutional amendment. The 16th of the month [April] will be an answer to this. If necessary, we can hold a new referendum on this [reintroduction of capital punishment].”

Erdoğan and the government have been pushing for reinstatement of the death penalty since a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. However, Turkey has been officially negotiating as a candidate country with the European Union (EU) since 2005 and abolished capital punishment in 2004 as part of EU reforms. Since the coup attempt, Erdoğan has repeatedly voiced his willingness to approve the restoration if parliament approves it.

Although the law was still on the books until 2004, Turkey had not executed any prisoners since October 1984.  Prior to 1984, executions would usually happen in periods after military coups.

Adnan Menderes, who had served as prime minister for 10 years, was hanged on Sept. 17, 1961 following the 1960 coup d’état, along with two other cabinet members, Fatin Rüştü Zorlu and Hasan Polatkan. The student leaders Deniz Gezmiş, Hüseyin İnan and Yusuf Aslan were hanged on May 6, 1972 after the 1971 military memorandum. Following the 1980 coup d’état, a total of 50 people, including 27 political activists, were executed between 1980 and 1984.

Feb. 24, 2017

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