The execution that still overshadows politics

Turkey's first freely elected prime minister Adnan Menderes was executed 52 years ago today. The decision by the junta still divides the nation

The execution that still overshadows politics

World Bulletin/News Desk

Turkish people mark the 52nd anniversary of the execution of Turkey's first democratically elected Prime Minister Adnan Menderes.

He was hanged by the junta on September 17, 1961. The junta had overthrown the country's first elected government in the previous year. 

"He was a man who reminded Turkish people of their belonging to a nation which created civilisation at one time," said Turkish parliament speaker Cemil Cicek Tuesday stressing his contributions to Turkey and its people.

Menderes was arrested along with all the leading Democratic Party (DP) members after 27 May 1960 military coup.

As they were accused of violating the constitution as well as embezzling money from state funds, they were put on trial by a military court on the island of Yassiada, which is seen as the symbol of the sorrows of Turkish democracy, located in the Sea of Marmara to the southeast of Istanbul.

Following the court's verdict, Menderes was sentenced to death and executed by the junta on the island of Imralı, located in the south of Marmara Sea.

Fatin Rustu Zorlu and Hasan Polatkan, who were the Foreign Affairs Minister and Finance Minister, respectively in the last Menderes administration, were also hanged by the junta in 1961.

 Menderes' execution divided the nation. A minority still believes the coup was an act to save democracy against a party which was violating democratic and secular pillars of the republic. But the overwhelming majority is of the opinion that the secular establishment led by Republican People's Party and social elite broke all the principles that the modern political activities were based on.

Turkey's current prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan previously quoted what Adnan Menderes said to the soldiers taking him to the execution: "Will you tell your masters that I am going to die in dignity?"

Erdogan also stressed at a speech in 2010 that Menderes gave his life in the struggle for the rule of people and democracy.

The ninth Turkish president Suleyman Demirel strongly condemned the execution by describing the event as "cruelty". "It is cruelty that they executed Adnan Menderes," he said adding the execution caused the nation to lose much.

"If Turkey is not struggling for democracy in a one-party-dictatorship today, it owes much to Adnan Menderes," said Atilla Yayla, a Turkish professor of social and political theory in an article. He also accused Turkish authorities of not preventing the execution of him, who he said was a democrat leader beloved by millions of people.

Many people saw the 1960 coup allowed the military to take precedent when they have overthrown governments in 1971, 1980 and 1997. 

In 1990, the Turkish government said it regretted the execution of Menderes and his grave was turned into a mausoleum, located in Istanbul.

Being the last Turkish political leader to be executed after a military coup, Adnan Menderes' name today can be found on many public places to show respect for him. 

Güncelleme Tarihi: 17 Eylül 2013, 14:50

Muhammed Öylek