Tensions in Turkey are heating up again.
In a move that is will again infuriate Europe, today Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his government would ask parliament to consider reintroducing the death penalty as a punishment for the plotters behind the July coup bid. “Our government will take this (proposal on capital punishment) to parliament. I am convinced that parliament will approve it, and when it comes back to me, I will ratify it,” Erdogan said at an inauguration ceremony in Ankara.
“Soon, soon, don’t worry. It’s happening soon, God willing,” he said, as crowds chanted: “We want the death penalty!”
Capital punishment was abolished in Turkey in 2004 as the nation sought accession to the European Union. After the failed bid to unseat Erdogan on July 15, the leader had threatened to bring the death penalty back for the coup plotters, stunning EU leaders.
Relations between Brussels and Ankara have been strained since Turkey responded to the coup by launching a relentless crackdown against alleged plotters in state institutions, amid calls from the EU to act within the rule of law. Tens of thousands of staff within the military, judiciary, civil service and education have been dismissed or detained in a crackdown.
Meanwhile, with EU relations at rock bottom, on Saturday, Erdogan scoffed at the West’s warnings on the reintroduction of the death penalty.
“The West says this, the West says that. Excuse me, but what counts is not what the West says. What counts is what my people say,” he said, during a ceremony to inaugurate a high-speed train station in the Turkish capital.
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And in a separate move, which may be linked to the escalation in tensions, this afternoon the US Embassy in Istanbul ordered the families of employees to depart, and also advised U.S. citizens to avoid travel to southeast Turkey and “carefully consider the risks of travel to and throughout the country.”
Full Travel Warning:
The U.S. Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens of increased threats from terrorist groups throughout Turkey. U.S. citizens should avoid travel to southeast Turkey and carefully consider the risks of travel to and throughout the country. The U.S. Department of State is updating this Travel Warning to reflect the October 29, 2016, decision to order the departure of family members of employees posted to the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul, Turkey. The Department of State made this decision based on security information indicating extremist groups are continuing aggressive efforts to attack U.S. citizens in areas of Istanbul where they reside or frequent. The Consulate General remains open and fully staffed.
This order applies only to the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul, not to other U.S. diplomatic posts in Turkey. The Department continues to monitor the effect of these developments on the overall security situation in the country. This replaces the Travel Warning dated October 24, 2016.
The Governor of Ankara, acting under the authority of the recently-extended state of emergency, and on the basis of reported terrorist threats against cities in Turkey, has banned all demonstrations in Ankara province until November 30. The Department continues to monitor the effects of the ongoing state of emergency; recent terrorist incidents in Ankara, Istanbul, Gaziantep, and throughout the Southeast; recurring threats; visible increases in police or military activities; and the potential for restrictions on movement as they relate to the safety and well-being of U.S. citizens in Turkey. Delays or denial of consular access to U.S. citizens detained or arrested by security forces, some of whom also possess Turkish citizenship, continue.
Foreign and U.S. tourists have been explicitly targeted by international and indigenous terrorist organizations in Turkey. In the past year, extremists have carried out attacks in France, Belgium, Germany, Mali, Bangladesh, Tunisia, and Turkey. Additional attacks in Turkey at major events, tourist sites, restaurants, commercial centers, places of worship, and transportation hubs, including aviation services, metros, buses, bridges, bus terminals and sea transport, could occur. Extremists have also threatened to kidnap and assassinate Westerners and U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens are reminded to review personal security plans, monitor local news for breaking events, and remain vigilant at all times.
U.S. Government personnel in Turkey remain subject to travel restrictions in the southeastern provinces of Hatay, Kilis, Gaziantep, Sanliurfa, Sirnak, Diyarbakir, Van, Siirt, Mus, Mardin, Batman, Bingol, Tunceli, Hakkari, Bitlis, and Elazig. In particular, the U.S. Mission to Turkey may prohibit movements by its personnel to these areas on short notice for security reasons, including threats and demonstrations. Due to recent acts of violence, such as the August 20 suicide bombing in Gaziantep, the September 12 bombing in Van, and the potential for reprisal attacks due to continued Turkish military activity in Syria, U.S. citizens are urged to defer travel to large, urban centers near the Turkish/Syrian border. Finally, the Government of Turkey has closed its border with Syria. Border crossings from Syria into Turkey are prohibited, even if the traveler entered Syria from Turkey. Individuals seeking emergency medical treatment or safety from immediate danger are assessed on a case by case basis