The execution of a former Turkish leader that still haunts Erdogan

The Adnan Menderes mausoleum in Topkapi cemetery, Zeytinburnu district, Istanbul, July 26, 2016. (Ishaan Tharoor/TWP)

In the shadow of medieval ramparts along the north of the old city lie the graves of three hanged men. The tomb at the center belongs to Adnan Menderes, a former Turkish prime minister who was ousted by a military junta in 1960 and executed a year later, along with his foreign and finance ministers. They now rest next to him. 

Turkey’s modern history is punctuated by great drama and upheaval. The country has endured waves of political turmoil and unrest, a decades-long Kurdish separatist insurgency, the growing threat of Islamist terrorism and multiple coup attempts, including the failed insurrection July 15 that led to hundreds of deaths and prompted an unprecedented government purge of state institutions.

But in the minds of some Turks, the military’s removal and unjust sentencing of Menderes — the republic’s first leader elected in free elections — represent a kind of original sin, a tragedy that prefigured the turbulent course of events to come.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in power for nearly a decade and a half, has in recent years invoked the memory of Menderes as part of his own political legacy.

A young Erdogan reportedly watched his father, a

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