The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, reiterated his support for reinstating the death penalty and threatened to cut off traitors’ heads in an a pair of emotive and combative speeches to mark the anniversary of last year’s attempted coup, The Guardian reports.
Tens of thousands of people gathered in Istanbul, marching to the Bosphorus Bridge where 36 people were killed by coup soldiers exactly a year ago, for the first of the speeches. The second was held before a large crowd at the Turkish parliament in Ankara to mark the moment during the coup when parliament was bombed by the plotters.
In a speech packed with religious references, Erdoğan said defendants in coup-related trials should wear a standard uniform “like in Guantanamo”, and warned that Turkey would “cut the heads off” traitors bent on destabilising the country. He also brandished the coup plotters as “unbelievers”.
“The most powerful weapons were mercilessly used by the enemies of our nation,” he told the crowd. “Our people only had the flag and faith.” The president harshly criticised opposition parties, indicating that there would be no attempt at a post-coup consensus.
During the attempted coup, tanks and fighter jets were deployed in the streets and skies of Ankara and Istanbul, when a faction within the military attempted to overthrow the elected government.
The coup was defeated after citizens of all political stripes took to the streets to challenge the soldiers. The government blames Fethullah Gülen, an exiled preacher based in the US with a large grassroots following, and his movement for orchestrating the coup attempt.
The ceremony at the parliament began with a recitation from the Qur’an, with verses on betrayal, martyrdom and standing one’s ground against enemies. An announcer read out the names of the coup victims with the gathered crowd, numbering in the thousands, responding: “here!”
Erdoğan equated the coup with other past struggles like the republic’s war of independence, and once again indicated that the return of the death penalty was a possibility after members of the crowd chanted: “We want execution.”
He he would approve a bill reinstating the death penalty if parliament proposed it. The European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, warned on Sunday that a move by Turkey to reinstate the death penalty would end any hope of it joining the European Union.
“If Turkey were to introduce the death penalty, the Turkish government would definitively slam the door on EU membership,” he wrote in Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper. He said Turkey should “move closer to Europe rather than moving away from us.”
Turkey is in the shadow of a crackdown that has gone beyond the coup plotters to encompass dissidents and even opposition politicians. Tens of thousands of people have been dismissed or detained from the civil service, police, military, judiciary, media and academia, and rights activists have been repeatedly detained. On Friday the government sacked an additional 7,000 people, and more than 150 journalists are in prison.
Its 12-year-old EU membership talks have ground to a halt.