De­fi­ant Er­do­gan at­tacks EU

Threat to bring back death penalty

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD - REUTERS AND WASHINGTON POST ANKARA/ISTANBUL

ACOMBATATIVE Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan yes­ter­day stepped up his cr­ti­cism of the EU, say­ing Turkey had to go its own way and vow­ing to re­store the death penalty if par­lia­ment passes it.

Er­do­gan, who was at the open­ing cer­e­mony for a memo­rial ded­i­cated to the 250 peo­ple who died dur­ing last year’s failed coup, ac­cused Brus­sels of “mess­ing about” with Turkey’s decades-long bid to join the bloc.

The speech, in front of the pres­i­den­tial palace in Ankara early yes­ter­day, wound up a marathon ses­sion of pub­lic ap­pear­ances by Er­do­gan in both the cap­i­tal and Istanbul to mark the an­niver­sary of last year’s failed coup.

“The stance of the Euro­pean Union is clear to see… 54 years have passed and they are still mess­ing us about,” he said, cit­ing what he said was Brus­sels’ fail­ure to keep prom­ises on ev­ery­thing from a visa deal to aid for Syr­ian mi­grants.

“We will sort things out for our­selves, there’s no other op­tion.”

Ties with Europe were strained af­ter the coup, given the West’s alarm about the scale of the gov­ern­ment crack­down that fol­lowed.

About 150000 peo­ple have been sacked or sus­pended from their jobs and more than 50 000 de­tained on sus­pi­cion of links to the US-based Mus­lim cleric Fethul­lah Gülen, whom Ankara blames for the at­tempted putsch.

He also said he would ap­prove, “with­out hes­i­ta­tion” the death penalty, if par­lia­ment voted to bring it back a move that would end Turkey’s bid to join the EU.

“I don’t look at what Hans and Ge­orge say. I look at what Ah­met, Mehmet, Hasan, Huseyin, Ayse, Fatma and Hat­ice say,” he said, to cheers from a flag-wav­ing crowd.

Er­do­gan, a pop­ulist who is the most di­vi­sive politi­cian in re­cent Turk­ish his­tory, sees him­self as the lib­er­a­tor of pi­ous mil­lions who were de­prived for decades of their rights and wel­fare by a sec­u­lar elite.

Euro­pean Com­mis­sion chief Jean-Claude Juncker said the EU re­mained com­mit­ted to di­a­logue with Turkey and called on Ankara to strengthen democ­racy and the rule of law.

“One year af­ter the at­tempted coup, Europe’s hand re­mains out­stretched,” Juncker wrote in Ger­many’s Bild am Son­ntag news­pa­per.

“If Turkey were to in­tro­duce the death penalty, the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment would fi­nally slam the door to EU mem­ber­ship.”

Ad­dress­ing a fiery crowd of hun­dreds of thou­sands in Istanbul, Er­do­gan promised vi­o­lent ret­ri­bu­tion against Turkey’s al­leged en­e­mies, in­clud­ing Feto his term for Gülen’s net­work and the out­lawed Kur­dis­tan Work­ers’ Party (PKK).

“We know who is be­hind Feto, the PKK and all of them,” he said.

“We can­not de­feat the queen, king, or sheikhs with­out de­feat­ing the pawns, knights and cas­tles. First, we will rip the heads off of these traitors.”

He also said that al­leged mem­bers of Gülen’s net­work would be forced to wear jump­suits like those worn by pris­on­ers at the Guan­tanamo Bay de­ten­tion camp, af­ter one de­tainee showed up to a court hear­ing wear­ing a T-shirt that said “Hero”.

Er­do­gan’s speech high­lighted the lin­ger­ing trauma of the failed coup, which the gov­ern­ment has blamed on loy­al­ists of Gülen, a Turk­ish cleric who lives in ex­ile in Penn­syl­va­nia.

That night, au­thor­i­ties said, rene­gade sol­diers loyal to Gülen used tanks, planes and he­li­copters to oc­cupy or at­tack tele­vi­sion sta­tions and pub­lic build­ings, in­clud­ing par­lia­ment, and were de­feated af­ter Er­do­gan ral­lied ci­ti­zens to the streets.

The events pro­vided a mo­men­tary sense of unity in po­larised Turkey: a shared shock and re­vul­sion at the will­ing­ness of sol­diers to crush peo­ple un­der tanks and strafe crowds from the air.

That unity, though, has dis­si­pated as the gov­ern­ment cast a wide net in pur­suit of its en­e­mies, sweep­ing up the failed coup’s al­leged ac­com­plices but also dis­si­dents.

PIC­TURE: AP

Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan de­liv­ers a speech in Istanbul on July16 last year, fol­low­ing a failed mil­i­tary coup.

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