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.
“They must know and understand Turkey,” Erdogan added, accusing the envoys of “indecency”.
“They must leave here the day they no longer know Turkey,” Erdogan said.
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.”