"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Turkey: Death penalty, NATO and the EU

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
There are new developments on the presidential system and the capital punishment topics after talks between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli.

Upon Bahceli's declaration that the MHP would support a bill reinstating the death penalty, the debate has changed direction. The view on reinstating capital punishment has strengthened.

The death penalty was to be brought for Fethullah Gulen and the putschists, and also for Abdullah Ocalan and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) terrorists. The MHP has been precise on Ocalan since the beginning. It is known that Bahceli holds Gulen and Ocalan, the coup attempt and PKK terror on the same level.

However, Bahceli warns and asks the government to consider the international dimension of reinstating the capital punishment.

In the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), there are 2 separate evaluations on capital punishment. The 1st one is that July 15 is a process; both Gulen and Ocalan can face the death penalty within the scope of a continuous crime. The 2nd one is that even if the death penalty is reinstated, it cannot be retroactive.

Serious debates are ongoing. In the cabinet meeting headed by Erdogan, this topic was brought up. The cabinet agrees with Erdogan but there are also different evaluations.

The thought was, "Even if the capital punishment is reinstated, Ocalan and Gulen would not be hanged because the penalty is non-retroactive. We would be reinstating the death penalty but we would not be able to execute. Our image would be smashed. NATO will expel us."

Upon this, the president intervened, "How can they expel us from NATO? There is a death penalty in the U.S." Then, it was stated that in the U.S. legal system, the death penalty has always been maintained whereas in EU law which Turkey is a party to, there is no death penalty.

A decision has not been made yet. However, some of the legal experts in the AK Party argue that this could be applied to Ocalan but not to Gulen. Some others argue the opposite. Those who argue that it can be applied to Gulen believe that the July 15 process is going on without interruption. Those who argue that it can be applied to Ocalan are aware that the death penalty cannot be given to him as his case has been closed. Only if in the PKK's new attacks an order given by Ocalan can be traced, could he be retried.

When Ocalan was sentenced to death, the MHP was the coalition partner. In a 7.5-hour meeting presided by then-Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, Bahceli did not break the coalition, putting the vital interests of the country first. Even though he paid the political price, he acted with common sense.

Some AK Party members have this question in their minds. When the death sentence was given to Ocalan, the MHP was the coalition partner. Why is Bahceli, who did not hang Ocalan then, bringing it up now?

My impression on the death penalty is that they will take it slowly. I had the impression that the death penalty topic might be left to cool.

In the presidential system, on the other hand, Erdogan has not given any perspective. Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim will come together and decide on a calendar. This matter should be clarified this week. Instead of a comprehensive amendment, they are focusing on an arrangement that could be processed "as fast as possible."

For a while, the practices of the government and MHP policies have overlapped. This is so in the fight against the PKK, the arrests of HDP deputies, the appointment of caretakers to HDP municipalities, as well as the "Shield of Euphrates" and Mosul operations. In these issues, Erdogan has taken the lead to an extent that would also meet the expectations of the MHP.

Also, Erdogan and Bahceli regard the situation our country is facing as a "survival of the country" issue.

Certain AK Party members are also questioning that while the presidential system is based on a 2-party system, this would harm the MHP. Why should Bahceli consent to this system?

The question is important, but the process is more important.

Source: Hurriyet Daily News, Abdulkadir Selvi, November 9, 2016

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