PM Erdoğan suggests discussing death penalty for terror crimes
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Turkey might discuss bringing back the death penalty in cases of acts of terror and murder, when speaking to journalists on a plane en route to Ankara from Brunei on Saturday.

"This may not be the case for political crimes, but it may be possible, for sure, to discuss [bringing back] the death penalty in connection with crimes of terror and causing the death of people," the prime minister stated.

Turkey abandoned the death penalty in practice in 1984. In 2002, Turkey abolished the death penalty in peacetime as part of a package of reforms aimed at preparing the country for EU membership, and foreswore the practice for all circumstances, including times of war, in 2004. The death penalty was replaced by life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Asked if the re-introduction of the dearth penalty would damage Turkey's bid to join the European Union, the prime minister said: "The international community is not made up solely of the EU. The death penalty exists in the US, China, Russia and Japan, for instance." The prime minister also said he cannot understand how the Norwegian judiciary handed down only a 21-year-sentence to Anders Behring Breivik for murdering 77 people in a shooting and bombing incident last year.

Erdoğan had criticized the court ruling against Breivik during a speech he delivered at a democracy forum in Bali last week. "I asked how a man killing 77 people could be given 21 years. I was told that he will not leave and that officials will find an excuse to give him another 21 years," Erdoğan said, adding that he doesn't believe that and that "we should solve this [problem]." The prime minister also said the death penalty is sometimes justified.

Erdoğan's remarks came days after he raised the possibility of bringing back capital punishment amid demands for the release of Abdullah Öcalan, leader of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), made by the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP).

Several BDP deputies, along with hundreds of pro-PKK prisoners, are currently on a hunger strike to protest Öcalan's prison conditions. They also demand that Kurdish prisoners be given the opportunity to defend themselves in their mother tongue in trials and that Kurdish students receive an education in their mother language.

The prime minister's statement about the death penalty received a thumbs-up from the Grand Unity Party (BBP). BBP Chairman Mustafa Destici spoke to reporters on Sunday and he said his party supports the idea of bringing back the death penalty for rapists and PKK terrorists. "We want the death penalty to be re-introduced for PKK terrorists as well as people who kidnap young children and kill them after raping them," he said.

Also on Saturday, Erdoğan spoke about a possible switch to a presidential system and suggested creating a presidential system "a la Turca," when speaking to journalists.

"I do not insist on [adopting] the US [presidential] system. I suggest that we examine all systems and create a Turkish system. Why not take up the positive aspects of all different presidential systems and leave out the unfavorable sides? We can decide on the most ideal system for Turkey in this way," the prime minister stated.

The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) last week submitted a proposal to the parliamentary Constitutional Reconciliation Commission to switch to a presidential system. The adoption of a presidential system has been a common point of debate in Turkey with Erdoğan, who supports a presidential system, frequently bringing the issue to the public's attention over the past year. Many speculate that Erdoğan hopes to become Turkey's first president in the 2014 election under a new presidential system, as he can't run for prime minister again due to the AK Party's self-dictated rules, which don't allow deputies to run for office more than three consecutive times.

Erdoğan told journalists that the presidential system would strengthen the system of single party rule in the country. "The presidential system does away with the threat of coalition governments. Turkey grew weaker under the rule of coalition governments. And it grew stronger under single party governments," he noted.

Turkey has been under the rule of a single-party government since 2002, when the AK Party was swept to power. The AK Party managed to form single-party governments in the ensuing elections, namely in 2007 and 2011.

When journalists asked him if his future political plans would be impacted if Turkey does not switch to the presidential system, Erdoğan simply responded "No."

Currently, Turkey's political system is based on a separation of powers. Executive power is exercised by the government, and legislative power is vested in Parliament. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislative branches. The president is elected every five years by public vote in Turkey. Executive power rests with the prime minister and his Cabinet.

In addition, the prime minister commented on a plan of the parliamentary Coup and Memorandum Investigation Commission to hear his testimony and voiced, albeit covertly, unwillingness to testify to the commission. "I told them [commission members] to talk to my lawyer. [State Minister] Hayati Yazıcı was my lawyer during the Feb. 28 [1997 military coup] process. They heard Yazıcı's testimony [last week]. But I have not talked to him [Yazıcı] about the content of his testimony so far. We will see [what to do with the commission's plan to hear my testimony] if there is a necessity," Erdoğan stated.

There were earlier news reports that the commission may invite the prime minister to testify this week. It was not immediately clear on what topic the commission is expecting Erdoğan to deliver testimony, but there is speculation that the commission will ask him about a meeting he held with then-Chief of General Staff retired Gen. Yaşar Büyükanıt at Dolmabahçe Palace in İstanbul in 2007. The content of the meeting is a matter of curiosity as neither Erdoğan nor Büyükanıt have ever made a statement about the meeting.

Journalists also asked the prime minister if he plans to talk to US President Barack Obama about the ongoing internal conflict in Syria. Erdoğan, in response, said he had talked to Obama about the issue in past months and that he will decide whether to talk to the US president in an either face-to-face meeting or on the phone.

"I talked to Obama. Our friends [Cabinet members] will discuss the issue first [about what could be done in cooperation with the US to stop the violence in Syria], and then I will talk to President Obama either on the phone or I will have a face-to-face meeting with him," the prime minister stated. CİHAN
Last Modified: 2012-11-11 20:00:01
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