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Parliament speaker from AKP declares support for restoring death penalty

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A senior official from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government on Tuesday expressed support for a proposal by the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), who called for the reintroduction of the death penalty in Turkey.

“I am of the opinion that capital punishment should exclusively be considered for certain crimes, such as murder and the sexual abuse of women and children,” Parliament Speaker Mustafa Şentop said on a live TV program on the A News channel on Tuesday, calling for an amendment to the constitution.

Şentop’s remarks came just before the opening of the new legislative year on October 1.

On September 2, MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli, an ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, had said in a written statement that the death penalty should be reinstated as there was no other way to put an end to the brutal murders that the country faces every day. The nationalist leader also claimed there was a public expectation in that regard and it should be met by the parliament. 

In fact reinstatement of capital punishment has been repeatedly voiced by Erdoğan, who also emphasized the “people’s demand” following a coup attempt in July 2016. Since then, the Erdoğan regime has been stepping up pressure on dissidents, notably Kurds and followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Fethullah Gülen, a self-exiled Turkish cleric living in the US.

The Western world has been calling on Ankara to ease its excessive crackdown.

The European Union has also warned that Turkey’s bid to join the bloc would end if the death penalty were to be restored.

Turkey abolished capital punishment in 2004 as part of its effort to join the EU. Nobody has been executed in the country since October 1984.

While the proposal seemingly targets perpetrators of child and women-related crimes, the AKP and the MHP are actually aiming at political prisoners and inmates convicted on politically motivated charges, critics claim. It is an often-used tactic that a proposal is first voiced by the MHP and is then accepted by the AKP.

In early 2018 Bahçeli had surprisingly proposed a snap election in June of that year instead of a scheduled one in 2019. Shortly thereafter, Erdoğan accepted the proposal for early presidential and parliamentary elections due to the urgent need for implementation of an executive presidential system.

Similarly, Bahçeli also brought forward an amnesty law in 2018 in order to release prisoners who were allegedly jailed by politically motivated judges, in reference to Gülen followers. Erdoğan at first seemed reluctant due to public reaction. However, the amnesty came to the fore again in 2020 under the pretext of precautions for COVID-19.

In the end, tens of thousands of prisoners such as rapists and child sexual abusers were freed, while political prisoners were not included in the release.

According to a report titled “Society at a Glance 2019” by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Turkey was ranked first, meaning the worst, out of 36 countries in terms of violence against women (VAW), which includes all forms of physical violence, sexual violence and abuse, psychological violence, economic violence, and harassment.

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