Turkey's Erdogan tells rally: I support death penalty

Pablo Tucker
August 8, 2016

The mass purge has strained Turkey's ties with its Western allies and cast a shadow over its long-term bid to join the European Union after Erdogan suggested the death penalty might be reintroduced.

People waving Turkish national flags as they gather on at Yenikapi in Istanbul during a rally against failed military coup on July 15.

Leaders of Turkey's three main political parties, including the Justice and Development (AK) Party, Republican People's Party (CHP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) are for the first time attending a rally together in the country.

Hosted by Erdogan, Sunday's "Democracy and Martyrs' Rally" is thought to be the largest demonstration since the July 15 attempted coup, which was averted in no small part by citizens who took to the streets to block rogue soldiers.

"Russia can not replace the United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and European Union or European partners.in relation to Turkey's strategic interests", Hakura said.

CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said that the bloody coup attempt, which claimed 239 lives and injured almost 2,200 others, was the beginning of a new era of compromise.

Before the coup had been quashed, Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said that "democratic order must be respected", and offered "support to the elected government". "If we can carry this power and the culture of reconciliation even further, we will leave a better Turkey for our children", he told the crowd, according to Turkish state media.

The message of leaders' and other speakers' speeches were clear - thanking the Turkish population of standing up for the concept of democracy.

He continued: "We are now struggling against a coup attempt, against terrorists".

"July 15 showed our friends that this country isn't just strong against political, economic and diplomatic attacks, but against military sabotage as well", Erdogan said. Currently, the controversial preacher lives in the U.S., after he self-imposed exile in 1999.

Erdogan's government has been emboldened by the support and has seized on the post-coup momentum to strengthen its grip on power.

The reciprocal visa-free access has been delayed due to a dispute over Turkish anti-terrorism legislation and concern in the West about the scale of Ankara's crackdown following a failed coup.

Erdogan vowed to rid Turkey of the network of USA -based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whose followers in the security forces, judiciary and civil service he accuses of orchestrating the attempted power grab and of plotting to overthrow the state.

Erdogan said he would approve the restoration of the death penalty if parliament voted for it, a move which would sink any hopes of European Union membership.

"After our parliament takes such a decision the step to be taken is apparent".

"I have never been in democracy rallies, but I really wanted to come this one because I don't want to lose my country", said Sevda Bozkurt, a 44-year-old housewife who didn't manage to get in.

Turkey has received criticism for what it did after the coup, where it conducted massive arrest campaigns, detaining thousands of individuals from the military, schools and universities, health services and the media.

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