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4th Mar 2024

Turkish PM moots reinstating death penalty

  • Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan has mooted bringing back capital punishment (Photo: luis echanove)

EU candidate country Turkey may reinstate capital punishment for people convicted of terrorism.

A total ban on the practice is a pre-condition to join EU ranks, but Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday (11 November) said he would consider lifting it anyway, reports AFP.

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Erdogan had already floated the idea during a panel discussion on democracy in Bali on Friday.

"Capital punishment was lifted in Europe but was it lifted in the United States, Japan and China? So death penalty can be legitimate in some cases," he said.

Turkey's spokesperson to the EU told EUobserver that: "it was just a statement by the Prime Minister. There is nothing concrete to reinstate this."

Erdogan cited polls that indicate a large number of Turks are in favor of state-sanctioned killing.

He noted strong popular support to execute imprisoned Kurdish rebel leader of the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan. Both the United States and Europe view the PKK as a terrorist group.

"Today, a lot of people are in favour of reinstating capital punishment, according to polls, because parents of the dead suffer while others party and eat kebabs," said Erdogan.

Ocalan had initially been sentenced to death in 1999 but had his sentence reduced to life after the EU pressured Turkey to abolish capital punishment in 2002.

The European Commission at the time called Turkey's ban on the practice a "significant step on its way to becoming a fully-fledged democracy."

Meanwhile, around 700 pro-PKK inmates entered their 60th day of hunger strike over the weekend in protest at Ocalan's solitary confinement on an island near Istanbul.

The Kurdish leader has been denied access to his lawyers for the past 15 months and his health is reportedly deteriorating.

The protest escalated on Saturday when six of Turkey's leading Kurdish politicians also decided to stop eating.

"We cannot bear the conscientious and ethical responsibility of waiting while people are under life-threatening situations," Gultan Kısanak, co-chair of the Peace and Democracy Party said Friday, reports UPI.

The EU, for its part, has taken a hard stand against the death penalty and is working towards its universal abolition.

"The death penalty can neither reverse the crime it seeks to punish nor mitigate a victim’s loss. It should be a relic of the past," said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in October.

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