Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan moved to expel the ambassadors of 10 Western countries who appealed for the release of a jailed civil society leader.
“I have ordered our foreign minister to declare these 10 ambassadors as persona non grata as soon as possible,” Erdogan said on Saturday, referring to a term used in diplomacy that signifies the first step before expulsion. He did not set a firm date.
Philanthropist Osman Kavala has been in prison since late 2017, charged with financing nationwide protests in 2013 and with involvement in a 2016 failed coup. He denies the charges.
The envoys had issued a highly unusual joint statement on Monday saying the continued detention of Parisian-born activist Osman Kavala “cast a shadow” over Turkey.
The US, Germany, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden called for a “just and speedy resolution to [Kavala’s] case”.
Jailed since 2017
Kavala has become a symbol of the sweeping crackdown Erdogan unleashed after surviving the coup attempt.
Speaking to the AFP news agency from his jail cell last week, Kavala said he felt like a tool in Erdogan’s attempts to blame a foreign plot for domestic opposition to his nearly two-decade rule.
Kavala said on Friday he would no longer attend his trial as a fair hearing was impossible after recent comments by Erdogan.
The Council of Europe, the continent’s top human rights watchdog, issued a final warning to Turkey to comply with a 2019 European Court of Human Rights order to release Kavala pending trial.
If Turkey fails to do so by its next meeting from November 30 – December 2, the Strasbourg-based council could vote to launch its first disciplinary proceedings against Ankara.
European Parliament President David Sassoli tweeted: “The expulsion of 10 ambassadors is a sign of the authoritarian drift of the Turkish government. We will not be intimidated. Freedom for Osman Kavala.”
A source at the German foreign ministry also said the 10 countries were consulting with one another. German legislators called for a tough response.