Erdogan says Turkey set to ban 10 Western ambassadors

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ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday he had ordered the Foreign Ministry to declare 10 ambassadors from Western countries “persona non grata” for calling for the release of philanthropist Osman Kavala.

FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, October 20, 2021. REUTERS / Afolabi Sotunde

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 United States -United called for a just and swift resolution of Kavala’s case, and for 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 should be done: these 10 ambassadors must be declared persona non grata at the same time. You will fix the problem immediately, ”Erdogan said in a speech, using a term meaning that a diplomat is no longer welcome in the country.

“They will know and understand Turkey. The day when they do not know and understand Turkey, they will leave, ”he said to the cheers of the crowd in the town of Eskisehir, in the northwest.

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.

Norway’s foreign ministry said its embassy in Ankara had not received any information from Turkish authorities on the matter yet.

“Our ambassador did nothing to justify an expulsion,” the ministry’s communications officer, Trude Maaseide, told Reuters in an emailed statement, adding that Turkey was well aware of the Norway on this case.

“We will continue to call on Turkey to abide by democratic standards and the rule of law to which the country is committed under the European Convention on Human Rights,” Maaseide said.

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.

Rights groups say his case is emblematic of a crackdown on dissent under Erdogan.

‘NO SIGNIFICANCE’ TO ATTEND THE TRIAL

Kavala said here on Friday that it would be “foolish” for him to attend his trial because a fair hearing was impossible given Erdogan’s recent comments.

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.

He delivered 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.

Additional reporting by Nora Buli in OsloWritten by Daren ButlerEditing by Peter Graff, Kevin Liffey and Frances Kerry


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