Fears Turkey coup response goes too far

  • 19/07/2016

As the purge of police, judges and officials continues in Turkey following the failed coup attempt, Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan has continued to hint he may order a return of the death penalty.

Dozens more suspected coup plotters have been rounded up and paraded on television as western leaders warned Turkey to show respect for the law and human rights.

Turkey is not Syria or Iraq, but for a few tumultuous hours the NATO member on Europe's doorstep appeared to be heading in that direction.

The attack was a direct assault on Turkey's parliamentary democracy, a rare and precious thing in that part of the world.

But the fear is that the president's response to it is turning into a witch hunt, which will make the country weaker and not stronger.

The roundup goes way beyond the usual suspects, with not just senior military officers but thousands of other civil servants either detained or sacked. Nearly 8000 police have been suspended.

When some of the alleged ringleaders appeared in court on Tuesday, panic broke out.

A man believed to be a soldier started shooting before he was arrested, and many Turks say they want the ringleaders dead.

Mehmet Kocakaya was one of those killed when a helicopter opened fire on civilians below.

His parents told Channel 4 News their 22-year-old son had climbed on top of a tank to stop the coup, and that his killers were traitors.

Faced with the destruction and loss of life, Mr Erdogan has suggested that the death penalty abolished 12 years ago may be brought back.

But Yasar Yakis, Mr Erdogan's first foreign minister before he was expelled from the party for disloyalty, believes the president sees this crisis as an opportunity not to be wasted.

"I hope at some stage, this evolution has to be stopped," he says.

"We have a rule in social sciences - 'power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely'. The more the power becomes absolute, the more it corrupts the leaders."

He says so far, this is what appears to be happening in Turkey.

If he's right, so much more than physical damage may be inflicted in the country - the very fabric of Turkey's democracy is now at risk, with Mr Erdogan not just changing the guard but recasting it in his own image.

Channel 4 News