President Erdoğan is a strongman who is tightening his grip on power and using punishment as an occasion for a new constitutional settlement

“We remain committed to justice,” wrote the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in this newspaper in an article marking the first anniversary of the 15 July coup attempt to remove the government of his ruling Justice and Development party (AKP). However, the question is what sort of justice President Erdoğan wants his country to commit to? In a speech this weekend to thousands of supporters, he seemed to be advocating capital punishment as a form of judicial retribution – saying that if parliament voted for a bill bringing back the death penalty, he would approve cutting off traitors’ heads. Such a move would set Turkey back in terms of both foreign and domestic politics.

Reinstating the death penalty would end Turkey’s bid for accession to the European Union, talks over which have stalled thanks mainly to continental intransigence. Capital punishment is not only barbaric and immoral but its deterrent effect unproven. It gives the state the right to eliminate anyone whom it finds dangerous even when there are other ways the danger can be contained. Turkey’s modern democracy should be a leader to follow for Muslim states, not a follower of bad leads.

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