There are some prime ministers that some of us might like to have seen on the scaffold, but in Turkey they turned that aspiration into reality when they hanged prime minister Adnan Menderes on Sunday, September 17th, 1961.

In 1946, Menderes, who was prime minister from 1950 to 1960, had formed the first legal opposition party, the democratic party, in the history of Turkey. As prime minister he brought sweeping urbanisation and industrialisation to his country.

He was particularly tolerant towards different religious groups, and more active than his predecessors in building relations with Moslem states. But he didn’t like criticism. The press was censored, journalists were arrested and attempts were made to suppress opposing political parties. As a result the prime minister became increasingly unpopular among intellectuals and the military, which feared he was moving towards the creation of an Islamic state.

On May 27th, 1960, a military coup ousted the Menderes government and the prime minister was arrested and charged with violating the strictly secular constitution. He was put on trial before a military court and sentenced to death.

The new government continued the Menderes reformist programme, moving the country even further towards the West. In 1990 the Turkish Government said it regretted the execution of Menderes and today several public buildings are named after the former prime minister.