• Breaking News

    ‘136 diplomats, soldiers sought asylum’ in Germany

    BERLIN/ANKARA: More than 130 Turkish diplomats, soldiers and their family members have sought refuge in Germany since last July’s failed coup, according to German government data in documents seen by AFP on Friday.
    “The government is aware of 136 asylum applications filed by diplomatic passport holders from Turkey. They also include family members,” said the Interior Ministry in a written reply to a query from a lawmaker.
    The ministry said however that it did not have data on how many among the applicants are diplomats and how many are soldiers stationed at NATO bases.
    President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government has accused US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen of having orchestrated the putsch, and launched a sweeping crackdown against his followers.
    Some 43,000 people in Turkey have been arrested over their suspected links to Gulen’s movement, and 100,000 fired or suspended. Many of them are teachers, police, magistrates and journalists.
    Turkey has been pushing for Berlin to extradite alleged supporters of Gulen and The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants.
    In its written note, the Interior Ministry said it extradited 60 people back to Turkey in 2015 for various offenses including terrorism and murder. Data for 2016 would only be available in 2018, it added.
    Vote on death penalty
    Erdogan said on Friday that a referendum on whether to bring back the death penalty was possible.
    His remarks came just weeks before the country votes on constitutional changes that would expand the powers of the presidency.
    “If necessary, let me say one more thing now, we can open a route for a referendum on this (capital punishment),” Erdogan said during a rally in the western city of Manisa.
    Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2004 as it made moves to join the European Union — any reimposition would likely spell the end of an already embattled bid.
    Erdogan has repeatedly said he would sign a law bringing back the death penalty if it was approved by parliament, but has not previously mentioned a public vote.
    On April 16, the Turkish public will vote on whether to change the current parliamentary system into an executive presidency.
    The president was delivering a speech as part of his tour of the country seeking a “Yes” vote to such changes. He is expected to visit 30 cities ahead of the referendum.
    The government argues the system would be like that of France or the United States, and bring stability to the country but critics argue it will lead to one-man rule.
    Open prison
    Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said convicts with lighter sentences would be reassigned to open prisons to make room for the tens of thousands of arrests following July’s failed coup.
    He told reporters on Friday that “there is some overcrowding due to the fight against terror,” and the reassignment policy would not apply to major crimes such as terrorism, organized crime or child abuse.
    The Ministry of Justice revised its regulation on Wednesday allowing for convicts sentenced to less than 10 years who achieve at least one month of good behavior could be reassigned to more comfortable open prisons.
    Yildirim insisted the move was not an amnesty, and the length of the prison sentence would not change.
    Over 41,000 people have been arrested during the state of emergency following the coup.-Arab News

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