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Turkey: Erdogan Urges Restoring Death Penalty in Violation of EU

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey should consider lifting its ban on capital punishment, a move that may deal a further blow to its stalled European Union membership bid.

"In the face of killings, if needed the death penalty should be brought back to the table," Erdogan said on his Twitter account today. "We do not think the state is entitled to forgive a killer. This authority belongs to the family of the victim and it can't belong to us."

Turkey lifted the death penalty in 2002 to meet EU conditions before Erdogan's party came to power. In recent years Turkey's bid to join the bloc has stalled amid opposition from EU members including France and Germany.

"The EU is crystal clear: abolition of the death penalty is a condition for accession to the EU," Marietje Schaake, a Dutch member of European Parliament, said by e-mail. She said Erdogan's comment was "a direct indication that he is willing to abandon this objective."

Erdogan's proposal follows an escalation in attacks by the autonomy-seeking Kurdistan Workers' Party or PKK on Turkish soldiers in the country's largely Kurdish southeast. Seventeen Turkish soldiers were killed in a helicopter crash in the region on Nov. 10.

Erdogan recently told members of his Justice and Development Party that there were growing calls from the public to restore the death penalty. He said today that the death penalty is still on the statute books in the U.S., Russia, China and Japan.

'Reforms Needed'

"Most of them are members of the UN Security Council," Erdogan said on Twitter. "In that case, we should reconsider our position."

Turkey lifted the death penalty amid intense debate over whether to send imprisoned PKK chief Abdullah Ocalan to the gallows. Dozens of people were on death row when the measure was passed. Turkey has not executed anyone since 1984, although courts were routinely imposing death sentences until 2002.

Schaake said the EU has already voiced concerns about aspects of the rule of law in Turkey.

"Fair trial, due process and the independence of the judiciary have all been explicitly mentioned as areas where serious reforms are needed," she said. "In general, but especially in a country where improvements in the rule of law are urgent, the death penalty should never be reintroduced."

Source: Bloomberg News, November 13, 2012

Ocalan was not executed for a reason

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for some time, has been mentioning reinstating capital punishment, especially related to terror crimes. We are used to the reaction that once the prime minister expresses an opinion, the Justice and Development Party (Ak Party) immediately embarks and meets the boss' wish.

It was not easy for Turkey to abandon the death penalty. After huge fights we were able to upgrade ourselves to the level of civilized countries and were able to save ourselves from this inhuman practice.

Now, turning the clock backward will be much more difficult and destructive. We will use time and energy in vain. We will go back to the past.

Well, why does the prime minister raise the topic of capital punishment?

I don't believe Erdogan has uttered these words because he truly believes in them, because this stance does not fit with Erdogan's thoughts in the past.

Tayyip Erdogan has signed the Cabinet decision in 2003 that approved the coming into force of the additional protocols that lift the death penalty except for in a state of war. Capital punishment in Turkey was totally abandoned in 2006 again with a motion from the Tayyip Erdogan government. Why would the Erdogan who was against the death penalty change his stance today?

I can think of 2 reasons:

Terror pressures the government extensively. The public is uncomfortable. The prime minister brings up the topic of the death penalty to satisfy his voters. Until the 2014 presidential elections, to be able collect nationalist votes, he is using the topic of the death penalty.

Otherwise, he is one of those persons who know very well that it is impossible to scare or bring to heel Ocalan or the PKK, or to stop terror this way. If my assumption is true, then we should ask this question: Isn't it a very dangerous tactic to reinstate capital punishment?

Ocalan's execution was debated in 1999. I remember that period very well because I was among those who opposed the execution.

The abolishment of capital punishment and Ocalan's death penalty almost coincided. If you remember, the 3-party coalition of Mesut Yilmaz-Bulent Ecevit-Devlet Bahceli was in office. Turkey was enthusiastically introducing reform packages to be able to catch candidacy for the European Union.

Abolishing the death penalty was one of the conditions of candidacy and was approved because of that. If the death penalty had not been abandoned at that time, then the Ak Party would have had to abolish it in 2004.

Ocalan's death penalty was being discussed before this decision. I can say this was one of the toughest decisions that the coalition government took.

There was no pressure from Washington or the EU. The state was worried for another reason. If Ocalan was executed, it was calculated that the southeast would rebel. The PKK would separate and a huge and bloody domestic struggle would start, an assassination marathon and showing off were expected. Security forces warned that they would not be able to handle this situation.

We went through an extremely difficult period and the state, in a very appropriate decision, delayed the execution. In fact, shortly after that, capital punishment was abandoned all together.

Turkey was able to breathe again.

Capital punishment is not a deterrent for the PKK; on the contrary, it is an element of propaganda. They would not care about the loss of human life. On the contrary, they would not miss the incredible opportunity that either Ocalan or one of its guerillas is executed. They would declare them "heroes."

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