As soon as he set foot on his land victorious after the summit, the Turkish President gave another headline: capital punishment will return to the country if it is considered necessary. This after having underlined in Madrid that Sweden had promised to extradite “73 terrorists” to Turkey and that, if it does not comply with the agreement, it could back down on its approval of NATO expansion. It is not the first time that Recep Tayyip Erdogan has introduced the question of the death penalty into public debate, which enjoys considerable support.

“If necessary, we should bring it back to the agenda and discuss it. We should see what comes out of this debate,” Erdogan said, in words collected by the private network NTV. “As I said before, if Parliament makes this decision as a result of the work of our Ministry of Justice, I will approve it,” he added. Although the Turkish head of state has not taken a position on the matter, his periodic calls to address it and then target his enemies show his inclinations.

The last one took place just a week ago and was to alert arsonists. After visiting an area in southern Turkey where 4,500 hectares were engulfed in flames, and learning of the arrest of a suspected arsonist, Erdogan said the punishment should be “intimidating, and if it’s the death penalty, let it be the death penalty.” of death”. Shortly after, from the province of Agri, the Minister of Justice, Bekir Bozdag, assured that the President’s comments “are an instruction for us.”

Turkey replaced capital punishment with aggravated life imprisonment in 2004 as part of then-Prime Minister Erdogan’s efforts to join the European Union. The last execution took place during the prologue to the bloody 1980 coup. But today the European dream is further away than ever and Erdogan, whose popularity is apparently on the decline due to economic mismanagement, knows that this is one of the issues that can polarize the country to their advantage.

In 2019, the Turkish leader assured at a rally that it had been “a mistake” to end the death penalty. “It offends me to have to feed those who are in prison for martyring 251 of my citizens, policemen and soldiers on the night of the coup on July 15, 2015,” he told attendees, pointing to members of the brotherhood. of the preacher Fethullah Gülen. Almost half of the deportations and extraditions that Turkey requests from Sweden and Finland are of members of that group.

Previously, Erdogan had opened the debate on the death penalty against murderers of minors, against members of other terrorist organizations and against the leader of the PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, who has been confined since 1999 in the prison-Island of Imrali, in the Sea of Marmara. Every time he has opened the melon, his followers have responded enthusiastically. The party with which he governs in coalition, the ultra-nationalist Nationalist Action Party, is a fervent advocate of such a punishment.

The population is not far behind. The majority of Turks are in favor of ending the life of the inmate, although it is not clear for how many crimes. In 2011, a survey by the Metropoll company indicated that 65% of Turks would like to see the death penalty reinstated for “certain crimes”. In 2019 it was the OCR company that made the query and pointed to several crimes: 71.7% of Turks would support the death penalty for “child abuse, sexist murders and terrorism”, without breaking down.

In order to reverse the reinstatement of the death penalty, the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey must be modified, the text of which has undergone specific reforms during the last two decades. Article 38 of the Turkish Magna Carta says that “neither the death penalty nor general confiscation should be imposed as punishments.” To achieve this, the government needs to have the support of the opposition. The main party, the social democratic CHP, spoke out in 2018 against it.

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