Erdogan: Turkey can hold referendum on death penalty

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey could hold a referendum on reinstating the death penalty, if parliament fails to pass such a measure.

Turkey could head to yet another referendum to decide on whether to restore capital punishment if parliament disapproves of the change, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Feb. 24.

“I said I would approve [restoring] the death penalty if it is approved by parliament. But the problem is that such a change requires a constitutional amendment. So let me say now:  We could also pave the way for a referendum on this if it is disapproved by parliament. God willing, we will go to the nation for a referendum on that too. If the nation says ‘bring back the death penalty,’ the issue is closed,” Erdoğan said at a rally in the Aegean province of Manisa, canvassing ahead of the April 16 referendum on constitutional amendments that will shift Turkey from the current parliamentary system to an executive presidency.


There have been frequent calls for capital punishment to be reinstated in the country, following its abolition in 2004 as part of reforms aimed at securing European Union membership, particularly after the failed July 2016 coup attempt.

Since the coup attempt, Erdoğan has repeatedly voiced his willingness to approve the restoration if parliament approves it.


Although the law was still on the books until 2004, Turkey had not executed any prisoners since October 1984.

Prior to 1984, executions would usually happen in periods after military coups. Adnan Menderes, who had served as prime minister for 10 years, was hanged on Sept. 17, 1961 following the 1960 coup d’état, along with two other cabinet members, Fatin Rüştü Zorlu and Hasan Polatkan. The student leaders Deniz Gezmiş, Hüseyin İnan and Yusuf Aslan were hanged on May 6, 1972 after the 1971 military memorandum. Following the 1980 coup d’état, a total of 50 people, including 27 political activists, were executed between 1980 and 1984.

Meanwhile, regarding the April 16 referendum, Erdoğan said that voting in favor of the changes “meant fast trains, two-lane highways, and having the world’s biggest airport.”

“We had just 25 airports [in the past]. Now we have 59 airports. [Voting] yes on April 16 means the continuation of these works. It means saying ‘Further!’” he added.

Erdoğan also noted that Turkey did not have any fast trains until the ruling Justice and the Development Party (AKP) took office in 2002, vowing that a “yes” vote would spur development of such infrastructure projects.

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