A victory for terrorists

According to Europe’s legal tradition, the death penalty is considered a state crime, even when it’s practiced on the most vicious criminal whose guilt is based on incontrovertible evidence. For that reason, the abolition of capital punishment is among the conditions for EU membership – and that includes for Turkey. Jean Charles de Menezes, a 27-year-old electrician from Brazil, was not charged with any crime, was not given a trial, was not executed in some Texas prison or beheaded in some Riyadh square. Rather, he had been living legally in London for three years until he was shot – at least five times – in the head by British policemen. You see, de Menezes made two unforgivable mistakes: Although it was mid-July, he was wearing a jacket (which could have hidden lethal explosives). Secondly, he did not freeze when he saw some 20 armed men in civilian clothes running toward him. It took Tony Blair three days to apologize to the family of the unfortunate Brazilian. Nevertheless, he and Police Commissioner Ian Blair also made clear that the shoot-to-kill policy will continue. Their arguments are suited to the practical, Anglo-Saxon spirit. It’s better to have one innocent person killed than to put a greater number of lives at risk. It is also better to aim at the head than the chest, for the target may be carrying explosives. Many believe that the aim of the terrorists is not to free Iraq or Palestine but to destroy Western democracy. If we accept this explanation, then we must also admit that the terrorists have already won. If the country that gave birth to parliamentary democracy and which claims to have the world’s most humane police officers adopts a shoot-first-ask-questions-later policy, then one dreads to think of the future of our much-cherished freedoms as they struggle between the clashing rocks of Islamic terror and the nascent police state.

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