Turkey to ban 10 Western ambassadors, says Erdogan
- Kavala has been in prison since the end of 2017
- He denies accusations of role in failed coup and mass protests
- Rights groups say landmark case of crackdown in Turkey
ISTANBUL, October 23 (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday said he ordered the Foreign Ministry to declare 10 ambassadors from Western countries “persona non grata” for calling for the release of philanthropist Osman Kavala.
Kavala has been in prison for four years, accused of funding nationwide protests in 2013 and participating in a failed coup in 2016. He 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 fair and swift resolution of Kavala’s case, and his “urgent release”. They were summoned by the Foreign Ministry, which called the statement irresponsible.
“I gave the necessary order to our Minister of Foreign Affairs and I said what had to be done: these 10 ambassadors must be declared persona non grata at the same time. .
“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 as well as the White House and the US State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Kavala was acquitted last year of charges related to the 2013 protests, but the ruling was overturned this year and combined with charges in another case related to the attempted coup. Read more
Rights groups say his case is emblematic of a crackdown on dissent under Erdogan.
Kavala said on Friday it would be “foolish” for him to attend his trial because a fair hearing was impossible given Erdogan’s recent comments. Read more
Erdogan was quoted on Thursday as saying the ambassadors in question would not release “bandits, murderers and terrorists” into their own country.
“As there is no possibility of a fair trial in these circumstances, I believe that participating in the hearings and presenting my defense will not make sense from now on,” Kavala said in a written statement.
The European Court of Human Rights called for Kavala’s immediate release at the end of 2019, saying there was no reasonable suspicion that he had committed an offense and finding that his detention was aimed at silencing him. Read more
He handed down a similar ruling this year in the case of Selahattin Demirtas, former leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples Democratic Party (HDP), who was jailed for nearly five years.
The Council of Europe, which oversees the implementation of the ECHR rulings, has said it will initiate infringement proceedings against Turkey if Kavala is not released.
The next hearing in the case against Kavala et al is scheduled for November 26.
Reporting by Daren Butler; Editing by Peter Graff and Kevin Liffey
Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.