Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he has ordered the foreign ministry to declare ambassadors from 10 Western countries, including the American envoy, “persona non grata” over their joint call on Ankara for the release of Osman Kavala, a civil society leader.
Kavala, 64, faces a series of charges linked to the 2013 anti-government protests and a failed coup in mid-August 2016. The rights activist, who has been in prison for four years, denies the allegations of financing the 2013 rallies and involvement in the botched putsch.
On Monday, the ambassadors of Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland, New Zealand and the United States, in a joint statement, called on the Turkish government to offer a just and speedy resolution to Kavala’s case.
“The continuing delays in (Kavala’s) trial… cast a shadow over respect for democracy, the rule of law and transparency in the Turkish judiciary system,” the ambassadors said in their statement.
They also called for his “urgent release,” a move that angered Ankara and prompted the Turkish Foreign Ministry to summon them all on Tuesday over what it lambasted as an “unacceptable” statement that “overstepped boundaries” and “attempted to politicize the legal process and pressure the judiciary.”
On Saturday, Erdogan said he asked the foreign ministry to expel the said ambassadors from the country. “I gave the necessary order to our foreign minister and said what must be done: These 10 ambassadors must be declared persona non grata at once. You will sort it out immediately,” the Turkish leader said in a speech in the city of Eskisehir in northwest Turkey.
“They will know and understand Turkey. The day they do not know and understand Turkey, they will leave,” Erdogan said to cheers from the crowd.
On Friday, Kavala said it would be “meaningless” for him to attend his trial, alleging that a fair hearing was impossible given recent comments by the Turkish president.
The Council of Europe has warned that it will launch infringement proceedings against Turkey if Kavala is not released before the human rights body’s next meeting on November 30-December 2. The next court hearing of Kavala is scheduled for November 26.
Hours after the release of the joint statement by the Western ambassadors on Monday, Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul also decried the statement, saying “no ambassador had the right to make a recommendation or suggestion to our courts.”
“It is this ignorance of limits and boundaries that throws a shadow over the rule of law,” Gul further said on Twitter.