Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan will hold a press conference during the NATO summit at the Alliance’s headquarters in Brussels on June 14, 2021.
Yves Herman | Reuters
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that he had instructed the Foreign Ministry to declare ten ambassadors from Western countries to be “persona non grata” because they had demanded the release of the philanthropist Osman Kavala.
Kavala has been in prison for four years and is charged with funding nationwide protests in 2013 and participating in a failed coup in 2016. He denies the allegations.
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 fair and swift solution to the Kavala case and its “urgent clearance”. They were summoned by the State Department, which said the statement was irresponsible.
“I gave our foreign minister the necessary order and said what to do: These 10 ambassadors must be declared persona non grata immediately. They will clarify this immediately,” said Erdogan in a speech in the city of Eskisehir in northwestern Turkey.
“They will know and understand Turkey. The day they do not know and understand Turkey, they will leave,” he said to the cheers of the crowd.
The US, German and French embassies and the White House and State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Kavala was acquitted of charges related to the 2013 protests last year, but the verdict was overturned this year and combined with charges in another case related to the attempted coup.
Human rights groups say his case is emblematic of crackdown on dissenting opinions under Erdogan.
Kavala said Friday it was “pointless” to attend his trial as a fair hearing was impossible given Erdogan’s recent remarks.
Erdogan was quoted on Thursday as saying that the ambassadors in question would not release “bandits, murderers and terrorists” in their own countries.
“As there is no possibility of a fair trial in these circumstances, I believe that attending hearings and defending myself will be meaningless from now on,” Kavala said in a written statement.
The European Court of Human Rights called for the immediate release of Kavala in late 2019 on the grounds that there was no reasonable suspicion that he had committed a crime and stated that his detention was intended to silence him.
She passed a similar judgment earlier this year in the case of Selahattin Demirtas, the former chairman of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), who has been in prison for almost five years.
The Council of Europe, which oversees the implementation of the ECHR decisions, has announced that it will initiate infringement proceedings against Turkey if Kavala is not released.
The next hearing in the trial against Kavala and others is due on November 26th.