ANKARA: Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Tuesday (Aug 16) a fair trial would represent a harsher punishment for suspected coup plotters than the death penalty - an apparent step back from threats to re-introduce capital punishment.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had suggested Turkey could bring back capital punishment - abolished in 2004 as part of the country's reforms to join the European Union - in the wake of the Jul 15 failed coup aimed at ousting him from power.
The threat stunned the EU, which makes the abolition of capital punishment an unnegotiable condition for joining the bloc.
"A person dies only once when executed," Yildirim told ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) MPs in parliament. "There are tougher ways to die than the death (penalty) for them. That is an impartial and fair trial," Yildirim said.
The prime minister's comments marked a change in tone after Erdogan said earlier this month that if the Turkish public wanted a return to capital punishment, then political parties would follow their will.
Erdogan has also not mentioned the issue in his latest speeches in recent days.
Relations between Brussels and Ankara have already 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 since a rogue faction within the military tried to oust Erdogan from power.
Ankara blames Erdogan's ally-turned-foe Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic preacher in self-exile in the United States, and his movement for ordering last month's coup bid. Gulen strongly denies the accusations.
Yildirim said Gulen would be brought to account for the attempted putsch during which 240 people lost their lives, excluding 34 coup plotters who were killed.
"Those responsible for the blood of our martyrs will be brought to account. We will not bring them to account acting out of revenge. We will bring them to account with justice," the prime minister said.
No judicial executions have taken place Turkey since left-wing militant Hidir Aslan was hanged on Oct 25, 1984 in the wake of the 1980 military coup.