Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared 10 foreign ambassadors – including seven from Europe – as persona non grata after they called for the release of Osman Kavala.
Kavala, a businessman and philanthropist, was jailed in 2017 despite having not having been convicted of a crime.
The envoys, including the U.S., French and German representatives in Ankara, issued a statement earlier this week calling for a resolution to the Kavala case.
Erdogan said that the statement was an “impudence” and ordered the ambassadors be declared undesirable.
“I gave the instruction to our foreign minister and said ‘You will immediately handle the persona non grata declaration of these 10 ambassadors,’” Erdogan told supporters during a rally in Eskisehir.
“They will recognize, understand and know Turkey. The day they don’t know or understand Turkey, they will leave.”
The diplomats, who also include the ambassadors of the Netherlands, Canada, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, and New Zealand, were summoned to the Foreign Ministry on Tuesday.
A declaration of persona non grata against a diplomat usually means that an individual is banned from remaining in their host country.
On Monday, ambassadors from Germany, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the US had urged a “just and speedy” resolution to Kavala’s case.
In a joint statement, the ambassadors of the ten countries called on Turkey to follow the rulings of the Council of Europe, a human rights body it joined in 1950. “The continuing delays in his trial … cast a shadow over respect for democracy, the rule of law and transparency in the Turkish judiciary system,” said the statement.
Kavala charged over 2016 coup attempt against Erdogan
Kavala, 64, was acquitted last year of charges linked to nationwide anti-government protests in 2013, but the ruling was overturned and joined to charges relating to a 2016 coup attempt.
International observers and human rights groups have repeatedly called for the release of Kavala and Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas, who has been jailed since 2016.
They say their imprisonment is based on political considerations. Ankara denies the claims and insists on the independence of Turkish courts.
On September 17, the Council of Europe issued Turkey its final warning to release the 64-year-old entrepreneur, warning that infringement proceedings against Ankara would start at the end of November if Kavala was not released by then.
But Turkey, so far, has refused to acknowledge the ruling made by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on December 10, 2019, which stated that the European Convention on Human Rights had been violated and therefore ordered Kavala to be released immediately.
The ECHR concluded that Kavala’s arrest was based on political motives, without any reasonable evidence backing the accusations. However, Turkish officials did not implement the decision and said the ECHR’s judgment was not final.