Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday he had ordered the foreign ministry to declare 10 ambassadors from Western nations “persona non grata” for calling for the release of philanthropist Osman Kavala.
Expelling the 10 ambassadors, seven of whom represent governments from Turkey’s NATO allies, would mark the deepest diplomatic rift with the West during Erdogan’s 19 years in power.
Kavala has been in jail for four years, charged with financing nationwide protests in 2013 and with involvement in a failed coup in 2016. He has remained in detention whilst his trial continues, and denies the charges.
In a joint statement on October 18, the ambassadors of Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland, New Zealand and the United States called for a just and speedy resolution to Kavala’s case, and for his “urgent release”. They have been summoned by Turkey’s foreign ministry, which known as the statement irresponsible.
“I gave the necessary order to our overseas minister and said what have to be done: These 10 ambassadors should be declared persona non grata at once. You will sort it out immediately,” Erdogan said in a speech in the town of Eskisehir in northwest Turkey.
“They will know and recognize Turkey. The day they do not know and understand Turkey, they will leave,” he stated to cheers from the crowd.
Several European nations and leaders have been quick to react to Erdogan’s statement.
Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands – whose envoys all signed the document – said late on Saturday they had obtained no official notification from Turkey.
“Our ambassador has not carried out anything that would justify the expulsion,” Norwegian foreign ministry spokeswoman Trude Maseide informed media in her home country, vowing to continue pressing Turkey on human rights and democracy.
Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod additionally said his ministry had not acquired any official notification regarding the problem and that it used to be in close contact with its friends and allies. “We will continue to guard our common values and principles, as additionally expressed in the joint declaration,” he stated in an emailed statement.
European Parliament President David Sassoli said on Twitter: “The expulsion of ten ambassadors is a sign of the authoritarian drift of the Turkish government. We will not be intimidated. Freedom for Osman Kavala.”
The expulsion of ten ambassadors is a sign of the authoritarian drift of the Turkish government. We will not be intimidated.
Freedom for Osman Kavala.
— David Sassoli (@EP_President) October 23, 2021
The US, German and French embassies and the White House and US State Department did not straight away respond to requests for comment.
Kavala: ‘Delivering my defence will be meaningless’
Kavala was once acquitted last year of charges associated to the 2013 protests, however the ruling used to be overturned this year and combined with charges in every other case related to the coup attempt.
Rights groups say his case is emblematic of a crackdown on dissent below Erdogan.
On Friday, Kavala said that it would be “meaningless” for him to attend his trial as a fair hearing used to be not possible given recent remarks by Erdogan.
Erdogan used to be cited on Thursday as saying the ambassadors in question would not release “bandits, murderers and terrorists” in their own countries.
“Since there is no possibility of a honest trial underneath these circumstances, I believe participating in hearings and turning in my defence will be meaningless from now on,” Kavala said in a written statement.
he European Court of Human Rights called for Kavala’s immediate release in late 2019, saying there used to be no reasonable suspicion that he had committed an offence, and finding that his detention had been meant to silence him.
It issued a comparable ruling this year in the case of Selahattin Demirtas, former head of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), who has been held in prison for almost five years.
The Council of Europe, which oversees the implementation of ECHR decisions, has said it will commence infringement proceedings against Turkey if Kavala is not released.
The next hearing in the case in opposition to Kavala and others is due on November 26.