He told broadcaster CNN that he narrowly escaped death after coup plotters stormed the resort town of Marmaris where he was vacationing.
“Had I stayed 10 or 15 additional minutes, I would have been killed or I would have been taken,” he said in the interview broadcast late on Monday.
Addressing hundreds of supporters outside his Istanbul residence in the early hours of Tuesday, Erdogan responded to calls for the death penalty with the simple statement: “You cannot put aside the people’s demands.”
Turkey’s state-run news agency says courts have ordered 85 generals and admirals jailed pending trial over their roles in the failed coup attempt. Dozens of others were still being questioned.
Anadolu Agency said on Tuesday those formally arrested include former air force commander General Akin Ozturk, alleged to be the ringleader of the 15 July uprising, and General Adem Hududi, commander of Turkey’s 2nd Army, which is in charge of countering possible threats to Turkey from Syria, Iran and Iraq.
Ozturk has denied the allegation, saying he neither planned nor directed the coup, according to the Anadolu Agency.
The agency later said Erdogan’s Air Force adviser, Lieutenant Colonel Erkan Kivrak, had been detained at a hotel in the Serik district of Turkey’s southern province of Antalya.
Authorities have rounded up thousands said to have been involved in the coup, which killed 208 government supporters and 24 coup plotters. The government maintains that Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Muslim cleric, was behind the coup, and has vociferously demanded his extradition.
Thousands of officials suspected of links to Gulen were purged from the judiciary and the Interior Ministry.
“No democracy shall allow for soldiers, prosecutors, police, judges, and bureaucrats to take orders from an outside organisation instead of the institutional bureaucracy,” said Erdogan.
Anadolu reported that 257 people working at the office of the prime minister have been dismissed and their identification seized because of suspicions of possible involvement in the coup attempt.