Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to bring the death penalty back if parliament votes for it. The Turkish president made the pledge at a rally of more than a million people in Istanbul on Sunday (7 August).

"If the nation makes such a decision [in support of death penalty], I believe political parties will abide by this decision," Erdogan declared. "It is the Turkish parliament that will decide on this [death penalty] given the sovereignty rests with the nation ... I declare it in advance, I will approve the decision made by the parliament," AFP news agency quoted the president as saying.

The Democracy and Martyrs' Rally was screened publicly across Turkey, in the wake of the failed military coup attempt on 15 July, in which at least 273 people were killed.

Those who turned out to attend the display of unity waved Turkish flags and cheered Erdogan's speech. Ankara has been supporting anti-coup rallies on a nightly basis since the uprising was thwarted.

Religious leaders and two of Turkey's three opposition parties were in attendance, although the pro-Kurdish People's Democracy Party, or HDP, had not been extended an invite, the Associated Press (AP) noted.

Turkey Democracy and Martyrs' rally
People wave Turkey's national flags during the Democracy and Martyrs Rally on 7 August 2016 Yasin Bulbul/Presidential Palace/Handout via Reuters

Turkey abolished capital punishment in 2004 – some 20 years after the last execution took place in the country. Last month (July), German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Ankara that reinstating the death penalty is "in no way compatible" with its goal of joining the European Union (EU).

Merkel added that bringing back state executions would categorically end Turkey's prospects of becoming an EU member state. Hitting back at critics, Erdogan said: "Today there is the death penalty in the majority of the world."

Erdogan Turkey rally
Erdogan speaks during Democracy and Martyrs' Rally, organised by him and supported by ruling AK Party (AKP), the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Osman Orsal/Reuters

He also accused US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen of being behind the failed coup. Gulen denies any involvement, but Erdogan has called on the US to extradite him to Turkey.

Since the failed takeover, the government has launched a heavy-handed response with more than 18,000 people being arrested or detained, leading to concerns over human rights and democracy in Turkey. Thousands of people have also been suspended or sacked from their jobs in government, education, healthcare the military and media in a wide-reaching purge.