In a development that came as no surprise to anybody, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has brought the reinstatement of the death penalty back to Turkey’s agenda just like he does almost every election period.
Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2004 as a part of reforms to facilitate Turkey’s accession to the European Union, although the death penalty has not been used since 1984.
“We made a mistake and abolished capital punishment,” Erdoğan said, speaking at a campaign rally for the March 31 local elections in the Black Sea province of Zonguldak on Tuesday.
Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), which came to power in 2002 as a single party government, pressed ahead for the abolishment of the death penalty.
Explaining why he has regrets about the elimination of capital punishment, Erdoğan said: “Because I find it hard to accept that we are feeding in prison those who killed our 251 citizens, soldiers and police officers on the night of July 15 even though they were given aggravated life sentences. As I have always said, if our parliament makes a decision to this effect [for reinstatement of the death penalty], I will approve it.”
July 15 refers to a failed coup attempt on this day in 2016 that led to the killing of more than 250 people.
In the meantime, Erdoğan during the campaign rally in Zonguldak again played blurred video clips of a massacre in two mosques in New Zealand last Friday that claimed the lives of 50 people although his use of the footage drew a rebuke Monday from New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters, who said the dissemination of the video could endanger his country’s citizens.