The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has refused to rule out executing the ringleaders of last week’s failed coup, despite repeated warnings from western leaders who said the use of the death penalty would end Turkish hopes of joining the European Union.
“The people have the opinion that these terrorists should be killed,” Erdoğan said in interview for CNN on Monday night. “Why should I keep them and feed them in prisons for years to come? That’s what the people say.” Erdoğan said the final decision lay with parliament and that “as the president, I will approve any decision to come out of the parliament”.
Some fear that Erdoğan may be using the backlash against the plot’s architects as a smokescreen for a wider crackdown on other political opponents.
Erdoğan’s allies said measures taken by the government were a necessary and justified response to a coup attempt that had almost toppled an elected administration, left the parliament badly damaged and killed hundreds of civilians.
Erdoğan was nevertheless accused of mission creep, with almost 9,000 policemen, 30 regional governors and more than 50 senior civil servants dismissed since Friday and more than 7,500 people arrested.
The detainees included more than 6,000 soldiers and 103 generals and admirals – just under a third of the military’s high command. Arrest warrants were still out for 2,700 judges, and all 3 million civil servants have been given travel bans amid government fears that some plotters within the deep state might attempt to flee. One journalist was listed for arrest, and by some estimates 20 news websites critical of the government had been shut down.
Responding to the widening crackdown, the US secretary of state, John Kerry, urged the Turkish government to “uphold the highest standards of respect for the nation’s democratic institutions and the rule of law. We will certainly support bringing the perpetrators of the coup to justice, but we also caution against a reach that goes well beyond that.”