At a rally of a reported one million people in Istanbul, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has vowed to reintroduce the death penalty if the people want it.
At a mass rally at Yenikapi parade ground in Istanbul, Erdoğan addressed his at-least one million supporters stating that: “It is the Turkish parliament that will decide on the death penalty… I declare it in advance, I will approve the decision made by the parliament,” reported the BBC.
Reacting to international criticisms, the Islamist president said:
“They say there is no death penalty in the EU…Well, the U.S. has it; Japan has it; China has it; most of the world has it. So they are allowed to have it. We used to have it until 1984. Sovereignty belongs to the people, so if the people make this decision I am sure the political parties will comply.”
Erdoğan addressed the mass ‘Democracy and Martyrs’ Rally’ as a culmination of three weeks of nightly demonstrations by his supporters since the failed coup attempt on the 15th of July.
Turkish government sources have also disclosed that in addition to the one million at the rally in Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul, a further four million were reported to have attended public live screenings of the president’s speech at smaller rallies across the country’s 81 provinces.
Leaders of two of Turkey’s three opposition parties, the Republican People’s Party and the Nationalist Movement Party, attended the rally; the Kurdish People’s Democratic Party was not invited.
“July 15 showed our friends that this country isn’t just strong against political, economic and diplomatic attacks, but against military sabotage as well. It showed that it will not fall, it will not be derailed,” Erdoğan said.
“Of course we have to uncover all members of this organisation and eradicate them within the framework of the law, but if we content ourselves with just that, then we as a state and a nation will leave weak our defence against similar viruses.”
Erdoğan alluded to the organisation of exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen, who the Turkish president alleges is behind the coup. Mr. Gülen, who is residing in the United States, has denied any involvement with the military putsch.
Local branches of the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party have been told to begin a purge of suspected Gülenists in their ranks, the Gülen Movement now defined as a terrorist organisation in Turkey.
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told the rally that Mr. Gülen would be extradited to Turkey:
“Let all of you know, the leader of this terrorist group will come to Turkey and pay for what he did.”
And the head of Turkey’s armed forces, Hulusi Akar, said that “traitors” would be “punished in the harshest way”.
Following the failed coup attempt, tens of thousands of arrests have been made including police, military personnel, judges, journalists, civil servants and even academics and medics. Sixty-two schoolchildren aged between 14 and 17 from Kuleli Military School were also arrested.
The rally came after several senior figures in the Austrian government, including Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, Defence Minister Hans-Peter Doskozil, and even Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern, came out against Turkish membership of the European Union (EU), calling current negotiations “diplomatic fiction”.
Meanwhile, Germany’s Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Sigmar Gabriel told ARD that talks of Turkish EU accession in anything less than 10 or 20 years is an “illusion” and “complete nonsense”. Mr. Gabriel added that if Erdoğan reintroduced capital punishment then it would make no sense to continue with negotiations as this would violate a “central element” of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights.