Calls mount for Turkey to reinstate the death penalty after child murders

Calls mount for the return of the death penalty as nation reels from several horrifying cases

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 May, 2014, 8:58pm
UPDATED : Monday, 05 May, 2014, 8:58pm


The brutal murders of several children are prompting calls for Turkey to bring back the death penalty and leading the government to toughen sentences for child killers.

Turkey abolished capital punishment more than a decade ago as part of Ankara's bid to enter the European Union, but calls to bring it back have gained volume since the gruesome killings.

Yusuf Yigitalp, deputy leader of the Islamic Saadet (Felicity) Party, said scrapping the death penalty had sparked a surge in crimes and bringing it back was a "must".

"Today capital punishment is applied in Western countries. The death penalty is in place in the United States and in Europe for certain crimes," he told the conservative Milli Gazete newspaper.

Ankara abolished capital punishment in 2002 as part of reforms to aid its EU bid, enshrining it in its constitution two years later.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that reintroducing capital punishment was impossible if Turkey wanted to join the European bloc and the government would instead work to ensure full-life sentences for child murders.

"These incidents are a kind of capital offence," Erdogan said. "An aggravated life sentence is on our agenda even if we cannot reinstate [the death penalty]."

Aggravated murder in Turkey means full-life imprisonment.

The calls to reintroduce state executions come after several gruesome child murders.

In one, a girl, aged six, was tortured and set on fire, according to preliminary police findings reported in Turkish media.

The suspected murderer, described only as being 20 years old, reportedly confessed to the crime, saying he had lured the girl into his car by saying they were going for a picnic before tying her up and attacking her.

"I closed my eyes and stabbed her. She fell down. I poured [petrol] on her and lit it with a match. She started to scream," he was quoted as saying by the Hurriyet daily.

In another shocking killing earlier in the month, a boy aged nine was found raped and strangled in the eastern province of Kars.

Surveillance cameras showed the suspect, aged 23, driving the boy to a remote spot where he committed the crime.

And two weeks ago, a boy aged four was reportedly found savagely murdered in a barn in the Aegean province of Aydin.

The killings have also sparked criticism of government efforts to address the issue after Family Minister Aysenur Islam urged parents to take steps such as teaching their children to scream.

"They should also know how to behave when they meet a stranger, the same as how they should know their hands will burn when they touch fire," she said on April 30.

"Our children need to scream in order to make their environment aware when they face a situation which they do not want," Islam said.

But Ezgi Koman, children rights centre co-ordinator at Gundem Cocuk (Agenda Child) Association, said it was a "superficial proposal" that showed the state had no idea how to tackle the problem of child safety. "It is apparent that screaming does not work in most cases. Many children are kidnapped with their mouths covered," she said. "The state's basic responsibility is to create a secure environment."

The association said 633 children were killed in Turkey last year, up from 609 in 2012.

Aylin Ilden, a child psychologist, said the public outrage over the string of murders did not reflect a surge in such crimes.

"These things have always happened, both in Turkey and in the world," she said.

Ilden said most abuse happened within a family environment, where most children felt secure.

"Intra-family child sexual abuse cases are usually whitewashed in Turkey as they are an embarrassment," she said.