Turkey could draft 'limited measure' on death penalty, PM says

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey could draft a “limited measure” to bring back the death penalty if a political compromise could be reached on the issue, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Tuesday.

Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yildirim addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara, Turkey, August 2, 2016. Hakan Goktepe/Prime Minister's Press Office/Handout via REUTERS

Following the July failed coup, crowds have repeatedly called for the re-introduction of capital punishment and President Tayyip Erdogan has said he would approve it if parliament voted for it.

Turkey formally abandoned the death penalty in 2002 as part of its European Union accession process, although no executions had been carried out since 1984. EU officials have warned that restoration of the death penalty could spell an end to Turkey’s talks to join the bloc.

“If there is an agreement on capital punishment, there could be a limited measure. We will not close our ears to the demands of the people,” Yildirim said in a speech to members of his ruling AK Party in parliament.

He said the move would require compromise because it would mean changing the constitution. He did not say what kind of compromise he envisaged.

“We want it to be known that this won’t be done by us alone and the measure would not apply retroactively.” This appeared to mean it would not be applied to crimes alleged to have taken place during the July 15 attempted coup.

The AKP has completed work on a package of proposals to change the constitution and create an executive presidency, something Erdogan has long sought. It is not clear whether a proposal on capital punishment is also part of that package.

The ruling party will require the support of the nationalist opposition for any plans to change the constitution, Yildirim said. Any constitutional change requires the support of at least 367 deputies in the 550-seat assembly to pass directly, and of 330 deputies to go to a referendum.

The AKP has 317 seats and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the smallest of the four parties in parliament, has 40.

MHP leader Devlet Bahceli on Tuesday voiced support for the death penalty, but said he would need to see details of the AKP’s proposal.

“Since there is a need for capital punishment, bring your proposals and let’s show these traitors how small the world is to them,” he told his party, according to a text of his remarks.

“We will first see the AKP’s proposal, then evaluate it and make a decision.”

Reporting by Ercan Gurses, Humeyra Pamuk and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Richard Balmforth