Turkey to expel US envoy and nine others, 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
  • President of the European Parliament: this decision is the sign of an “authoritarian drift”

ISTANBUL, Oct. 23 (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that he asked his foreign ministry to expel ambassadors from the United States and nine other Western countries for calling for the release of philanthropist Osman Kavala.

Seven of the ambassadors represent Turkey’s allies in NATO and the expulsions, if carried out, would open the deepest rift with the West in Erdogan’s 19 years in power.

Kavala, a contributor to many civil society groups, has been in prison for four years, accused of funding nationwide protests in 2013 and participating in a failed coup in 2016. He is remained in custody while his final trial continues, and 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 should be done: these 10 ambassadors must be declared persona non grata (undesirable) immediately. Eskisehir.

“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 and French embassies and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A spokesperson for the US State Department said he was aware of the information and was seeking clarification from the Turkish Foreign Ministry.

Erdogan has previously said he plans to meet with US President Joe Biden at a summit of the Group of 20 (G20) major economies in Rome next weekend. Read more

A diplomatic source said de-escalation was possible given that Turkey has now made its position very clear and given the potential diplomatic fallout from such a move ahead of the G20 summit and the UN climate summit in Glasgow. from the end of the month.

“No instructions have been given to the embassies,” the source said, adding that it was possible a decision could be taken at Turkey’s cabinet meeting on Monday.

Norway said its embassy had not received any notification from Turkish authorities.

“Our ambassador did nothing to justify an expulsion,” the ministry’s chief spokesman Trude Maaseide said, adding that Turkey was well aware of Norway’s point of view.

“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.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters in Eskisehir, Turkey, October 23, 2021. Murat Cetinmuhurdar / PPO / Handout via REUTERS

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The New Zealand Foreign Ministry said on Sunday it would not comment until it heard “anything officially through official channels,” and added in an emailed statement that ” New Zealand values ​​its relationship with Turkey ”.

‘AUTHORITY DRIFT’

Kavala was acquitted last year of charges related to the 2013 protests, but the ruling was overturned this year and combined with charges related to the attempted coup. Read more

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

Six of the countries concerned are members of the EU, including Germany and France. European Parliament President David Sassoli tweeted: “The expulsion of ten ambassadors is a sign of the Turkish government’s authoritarian drift. We will not be intimidated. Freedom for Osman Kavala.”

Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said his ministry had not received any official notification, but was in contact with friends and allies.

“We will continue to protect our common values ​​and principles, as also expressed in the joint statement,” he said in a statement.

A source at the German Foreign Ministry also said the 10 countries were consulting each other.

Kavala said on Friday he would no longer attend his trial because a fair hearing was impossible after Erdogan’s recent comments.

Erdogan was quoted on Thursday as saying that the ambassadors in question would not release “bandits, murderers and terrorists” in their own country.

The European Court of Human Rights called for Kavala’s immediate release two years ago, saying there was no reasonable suspicion that he had committed an offense and finding that his detention was aimed at reducing him to the silence. 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 Kavala’s trial will take place on November 26.

Additional reporting by Jonathan Spicer, Nora Buli in Oslo, Stine Jacobsen in Copenhagen, Foo Yun Chee in Brussels and Lidia Kelly in Melbourne; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Peter Graff, Kevin Liffey, Frances Kerry, Daniel Wallis and Kim Coghill

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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