1961: Fatin Rustu Zorlu and Hasan Polatkan

On this date in 1961, two former Turkish ministers of state were hanged together on the island of Imrali.*

A ten-month trial on the island of Yassiada had ended just the previous day, condemning 15 to death; 12 sentences were commuted, leaving only the biggest fish to fry.

Zorlu, the former Foreign Minister, and Polatkan, late the Finance Minister, were both implicated in the financial crimes often characteristic of high office. Zorlu was also condemned for helping instigate a notorious 1955 anti-Greek riot. The two were helicoptered to Imrali for a pre-dawn hanging.

Zorlu, at least, was reported to have died game. He helped slip the noose over his own neck, and at his hanging “asked that he be allowed to kick away the chair himself. Permission was granted.” (Los Angeles Times, September 18, 1961)

* Tangentially, the prison on Imrali is the one American drug-smuggler Billy Hayes subsequently escaped from. Hayes went on to write Midnight Express, later adapted for the silver screen by Oliver Stone.

Part of the Daily Double: Turkey’s “Left-Wing Coup”.

Daily Double: Turkey’s “left-wing coup”

With this post, we unveil a new metadata category, the Daily Double — related executions on actual consecutive dates in the same year. (We’re also retroactively defining an old Themed Set post into this category.)

The Turkish Republic, so violently born, has endured a tumultuous past half-century or so. In keeping with the Cold War Zeitgeist, it also enjoyed its share of coups.

The first such struck in May of 1960, toppling the elected (but by then deeply unpopular with young military officers) government of Adnan Menderes. Menderes had been Prime Minister for a decade, but he and two of his ministers would check out with the distinction of being the last politicians executed in Turkey.