U.S., Germany, France envoys now persona non grata in Turkey

ERDOGAN

President Erdogan

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has ordered the foreign ministry to declare 10 ambassadors ‘persona non grata’ for calling for the release of philanthropist Osman Kavala.

Erdogan gave the order on Saturday in a speech in the city of Eskisehir.

The declaration affects the ambassadors of the United States, Germany, France, Netherlands, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden.

Erdogan considered it an affront for the envoys to comment on the arrest since 2017 of philanthropist Osman Kavala, who is in a Turkish prison in alleged connection with the 2016 aborted coup.

Osman Kavala detained in Turkey since 2017
Osman Kavala detained in Turkey since 2017

The envoys asked that Kavala be released in a joint statement, saying Kavala’s continued detention “cast a shadow” over Turkey.

Erdogan made it clear during his speech that he found it as an affront that the ten ambassadors could interfere with the Kavala issue.

“How rude?,” Erdogan said.

“Where do they think they are? […] This is glorious Turkey. You can’t come here and start giving instructions.”

On Tuesday, the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the ambassadors for what it said was an “irresponsible” statement calling for a just and speedy resolution to Kavala’s case.

The Paris-born Kavala was charged with financing protests and participating in a failed coup, which he denies.

Osman Kavala, 64, has been in jail without a conviction since 2017, becoming a symbol of what critics see as Erdogan’s growing intolerance of dissent.

Kavala has faced a string of alternating charges linked to 2013 anti-government protests and a failed military coup in 2016.

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In their statement, the 10 ambassadors called for a “just and speedy resolution to (Kavala)’s case”.

Erdogan sounded incandescent with rage in a conversation with Turkish reporters on board his return flight from Nigeria and Angola.

“Is it within your boundary to teach such a lesson to Turkey? Who are you?” he demanded in comments carried by the private NTV broadcaster.

The Turkish lira extended its fall into record-low territory against the dollar within moments of Erdogan’s comments on fears of a new wave of Turkish tensions with the West.

Speaking from his jail 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.

“I think the real reason behind my continued detention is that it addresses the need of the government to keep alive the fiction that the (2013) Gezi protests were the result of a foreign conspiracy,” Kavala said in the interview.

“Since I am accused of being a part of this conspiracy allegedly organised by foreign powers, my release would weaken the fiction in question and this is not something that the government would like,” he said.

Kavala was acquitted of the Gezi charges in February 2020, only to be re-arrested before he could return home and thrown back in jail over alleged links to the 2016 coup plot.

The Council of Europe, the continent’s top human rights watchdog, has 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 on November 30-December 2, the Strasbourg-based council could vote to launch its first disciplinary proceedings against Ankara.

The proceedings could result in the suspension of Turkey’s voting rights and even its membership.