ISTANBUL, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made clear he will show no mercy.
Just days after a failed military coup that broke out into deadly violence, talks of reintroducing the death penalty have revived and more than 7,000 people have been arrested, many of whom were detained in horse stables, stripped to the waist in humiliation.
Erdogan is wasting no time 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.”
The Turkish Interior Ministry has been gutted, with 8,777 officers removed from office, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported, adding that the majority were police officers.
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, and eight soldiers who fled to Greece are waiting to hear their fate, with no bilateral extradition agreement between the countries.
Erdogan, who was on holiday at the time, used FaceTime to mobilize the Turkish people onto the streets to challenge the military, as they rolled their tanks onto the streets of Ankara and Istanbul on Friday night.
Dozens die within hours
By Monday, the death toll was at 232, including 24 “coup plotters,” according to Turkish 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.
Yildirim also 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. It was not clear who targeted him or why.
Death penalty = No EU membership
Erdogan’s iron-fist crackdown on those behind the attempted coup has raised questions of the state of Turkey’s democracy.
Calls to reintroduce the death penalty followed the failed coup almost immediately.
Speaking at a funeral on Sunday held for some of those killed during gunfire — including the brother of his chief adviser, Mustafa Varank — Erdogan said he did not rule out bringing back the death penalty for the coup’s perpetrators.
As the crowd chanted “we want the death penalty,” he said, “we can’t ignore the people’s request in a democracy — this is your right.”
“This right has to be evaluated by the appropriate authorities according to the constitution and a decision can be made,” Erdogan said in the address broadcast live on TV.
Turkey is now faced with the question of what kind of democracy it wants to have.
If it 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 on Monday.
She said that Turkey was part of the European Council, a separate European body of governance, and for that reason it was “bound by the European convention of human rights, which is very clear on (the) death penalty.”
Turkey applied for full EU membership in 1987, but was only considered a serious candidate in 1999.
Its application has faltered several times, but was recently given a boost after it made a deal with the union to stem the flow of refugees leaving its shores, bound for countries like Germany.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was among world leaders to back Erdogan’s government in power.
“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.
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.
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.
Over the weekend, photographs surfaced on social media of apparent mass detentions, including one showing dozens of people kneeling down in a large stable in Ankara, apparently stripped to the waist.
Erdogan blames Gulen
In addition to those detained, Erdogan is demanding the United States arrest or extradite Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom he blamed for the attempt to overthrow the government.
“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.”
Gulen, who is living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, denied he had anything to do with it.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States hadn’t yet received a formal request from Turkey for Gulen’s extradition.