EU: Turkey can’t join if it introduces death penalty

Updated 3:47 PM EDT, Mon July 18, 2016
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Story highlights

NEW: Erdogan touts return of death penalty

Officials say coup plotters must be punished

(CNN) —  

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told CNN he would approve reinstating the death penalty if lawmakers backed the measure in Parliament. He called the attempted coup on Friday a “clear crime of treason.”

In his first one-on-one interview since the attempted coup by a faction of the military, Erdogan on Monday said citizens are demanding the death penalty for coup plotters.

“The people now have the idea, after so many terrorist incidents, that these terrorists should be killed,” Erdogan told CNN’s Becky Anderson through his translator. “Why should I keep them and feed them in prisons for years to come?”

The President didn’t specify whether he’d seek the death penalty for Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who the president says was behind the attempt to overthrow him. He said he’ll submit a formal request to the United States within days for Gulen’s extradition.

The United States should grant the request, Erdogan said, because the two nations are strategic partners. “There should be reciprocity,” he said.

Gulen, who is living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, denied he had anything to do with the coup.

Who is Fethullah Gulen?

“Twenty years ago, I clearly stated my support for democracy and I said that there is no return from democracy in Turkey,” Gulen said Saturday. “My position on democracy is really clear. Any attempts to overthrow the country is a betrayal to our unity and is treason.”

Why the coup attempt will shock Turks

If Turkey reintroduces the death penalty, it won’t be joining the European Union, according to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

“Let me be very clear on one thing … No country can become an EU member state if it introduces [the] death penalty,” Mogherini said.

Turkey applied for full EU membership in 1987, but was only considered a serious candidate in 1999.

7,000 people arrested

Throughout the Monday interview, Erdogan indicated he would rule with an iron fist.

Erdogan said he has “no issues” when it comes to a free press, but if media outlets sided with and supported the plotters of the attempted coup, the justice system would need to take steps.

More than 7,000 people have been arrested and some of the very institutions responsible for the country’s security have been gutted since Erdogan reasserted power.

Failed coup in Turkey: What you need to know

Of those detained, dozens were photographed at horse stables, forced to their knees and stripped to the waist in humiliation.

Erdogan is wasting no time to his bid to “cleanse” the country’s security forces of “viruses,” as he put it, vowing that those behind the attempt to overthrow his government “will pay a very heavy price for this act of treason.”

Almost 13,000 public officials have either been removed or suspended from their positions, authorities said. These are officials drawn from the interior, finance and justice ministries. A total of 8,777 officers have already been removed from the Interior Ministry, the vast majority of them police officers, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Of those arrested, 103 are generals and admirals, a third of the general-rank command of the Turkish military, according to Anadolu.

Judges, lawyers, senior aides and police are among those detained, while eight soldiers who fled to Greece are waiting to hear their fate, as no bilateral extradition agreement exists between the countries.

Erdogan supporters capture a Turkish army vehicle after soldiers surrendered Saturday.
Erdogan supporters capture a Turkish army vehicle after soldiers surrendered Saturday.
PHOTO: Gokhan Tan/Getty Images

Dozens dead within hours

Elements of the military rolled their tanks onto the streets of Ankara and Istanbul on Friday night as Erdogan enjoyed a holiday in the resort of Marmaris.

The President, whose government is known for shutting down social media to stop protesters mobilizing, used FaceTime to call on the Turkish people, many of whom took to streets to challenge the military.

Dozens were dead within hours.

By Monday, the death toll was at 232, including 24 “coup plotters,” according to Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. Officials earlier said at least 290 people had been killed and did not explain the reason the death toll had been overstated. Another 1,400 were injured.

Coup attempt: Five key questions answered

Yildirim warned of repercussions, saying on Twitter that “every single drop of blood shed will be accounted for in such a harsh way.”

Anadolu reported that Cemil Candas, deputy mayor of the Sisli district in Istanbul, was shot in the head Monday and is in critical condition, although it was not clear who targeted him or why.

Amnesty: Rights must be respected

Turkey’s history of military coups has long had “devastating consequences” for human rights, Amnesty International said in a statement.

“A number of government officials and ruling party representatives have spoken in favor of reinstating the death penalty, itself a tool of past military rulers. This regressive step should be avoided, as should further restrictions on legitimate dissent,” Amnesty said.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke about conditions in the country.

“We also firmly urge the government of Turkey to maintain calm and stability throughout the country, and we also urge the government of Turkey to uphold the highest standards of respect for the nation’s democratic institutions and the rule of law. And we will certainly support bringing the perpetrators of the coup to justice,” Kerry said on Monday in Brussels, where he was meeting with EU leaders.

Some of the 27 men accused by the Erdogan government of having led Friday
Some of the 27 men accused by the Erdogan government of having led Friday's failed coup in Turkey.
PHOTO: Anadolu Agency

Twenty-seven men accused of masterminding the failed coup faced court in the capital Ankara on Monday, apparently without having access to the lawyers prior to their arrival.

Images show Akin Ozturk, a four-star general and former commander of the Turkish air force, had been arrested, his ear bandaged and neck bruised.

CNN’s Gul Tuysuz, Nic Robertson, Euan McKirdy, Steve Almasy, Sheena McKenzie, Ray Sanchez, Jamie Crawford, Barbara Starr, Ivan Watson, Kevin Bohn and Amanda Wills contributed to this report.