07/21/2016 09:45 EDT | Updated 07/21/2016 09:59 EDT

Dion Urges Turkey Not To Bring Back Death Penalty

Canada has expressed sharp concerns over Turkey's imposition of a three-month state of emergency.

OTTAWA — Canada has expressed sharp concerns over Turkey's imposition of a three-month state of emergency and reports that it may reintroduce the death penalty in response to last week's botched coup attempt.

"Canada supports a democratic Turkey and respects the need for thorough investigations and prosecutions against the perpetrators of the recent attempted coup,'' Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion said in a statement released Wednesday night.

"This must be done in accordance with Turkish and international law. Given this imperative, Canada is concerned by the state of emergency declared by President Erdogan today.''

Dion also said Canada is equally troubled by reports of the firings and detentions of tens of thousands of people, including members of the judiciary, public servants, teachers, academics, members of civil society and the media.

Foreign Minister Stephane Dion speaks during the Pledging Conference in Support of Iraq at the State Department in Washington, DC, on Wednesday. (Photo: Andrew Biraj/AFP/Getty Images)

But he said Canada is "especially concerned'' about reports Turkey might bring back the death penalty, which it abolished 12 years ago.

"The death penalty undermines human dignity and is incompatible with Turkey's international obligations. Canada urges Turkey to comply fully with its relevant obligations under international human rights law,'' Dion said.

Erdogan has mused about reinstating the death penalty, which Turkey abolished in 2004 as a step toward joining the European Union.

"The death penalty undermines human dignity and is incompatible with Turkey's international obligations."

Earlier Wednesday, Dion said Canada had rebuffed the Turkish government's requests for information on the Gulen movement in Canada.

Dion said the requests from the Turkish government came before and after last week's coup attempt to overthrow the Erdogan government.

Turkey points fingers, but Canada and U.S. want evidence

The Turkish president blames U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen as the instigator of the botched coup and he's moved swiftly against Gulen supporters in his country's institutions.

Turkey has asked for Gulen to be extradited from the U.S., but Secretary of State John Kerry said his government's response so far is "please don't send us allegations, send us evidence.''

At a joint news conference with Kerry in Washington, Dion echoed that point.

"About the Gulen movement ... we have received requests before the coup and after from the government of Turkey about the movement that is existing in Canada, and we have asked for evidence because otherwise the Canadian justice system cannot address an issue on the basis of allegations,'' Dion explained.

"Please don't send us allegations, send us evidence.''

"We are on the same page.''

Dion elaborated briefly in an interview.

"It was certainly an expression of concern about this group and its presence in Canada, and an invitation for us to work with them on that. And we just said: 'The ball is in your camp. You need to provide evidence,''' he told The Canadian Press.

His spokesman, Joe Pickerill, said the Turkish government was not asking to extradite any Gulen members from Canada, as has been the case with the U.S., but was seeking "general information'' about the group in Canada.

Pickerill declined to provide further details.

A statement from the Turkish embassy in Ottawa said its government has "solid proof'' that Gulen's organization staged the coup.

"Turkey calls all our partners and allies to take all possible measures to prevent the activities of this group (on) their soil,'' it said.

Trudeau 'preoccupied' with Turkey's democracy

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday he is preoccupied with the state of Turkey's democracy, and that has been communicated to the government.

"Coups are not a good thing,'' Trudeau said in French when asked about Turkey at an Ottawa-area event.

"We are preoccupied at the same time that democratic institutions and the constitution of Turkey be respected, and that the rule of law continues,'' he added.

"Coups are not a good thing.''

"We need to make sure that all those who will be arrested related to his coup will have the opportunity to defend themselves in a robust and legitimate trial. And those are preoccupations that we've communicated to the Turks regarding this.''

The Canadian Association of University Teachers sent a letter to the Turkish embassy in Ottawa, calling for an end to a crackdown on educators, and the reinstatement of all those fired.

"The sheer number of arrests and suspensions in recent days is nothing short of alarming, and suggests that purges are now being used to censor anyone, including academics, who is critical of the government,'' wrote David Robinson, the association's executive director.

Turkey to close hundreds of schools

Turkey announced plans Wednesday to close 600 private schools, after firing more than 20,000 public sector teachers, and is planning to revoke the licenses of 21,000 other private school teachers. It has also detained 9,000 military personnel, including more than 100 generals.

Gulcan Akoguz, the Turkish charge d'affairs in Ottawa, defended her government's ongoing investigation into the coup attempt, saying it was probing all branches of the government, not just education.

— with files from Lee Berthiaume

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