Erdoğan threatens to expel 10 Western envoys who called for Kavala's release

President Erdoğan has threatened to expel the ambassadors of 10 countries over their call for Osman Kavala's release. "We can't have the luxury of hosting these people in our country," he said.

Duvar English - Reuters

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Oct. 21 threatened the ambassadors of 10 countries, including the United States, Germany and France, with expulsion over their call for philanthropist and human rights activist Osman Kavala's release. 

The foreign ministry summoned the ambassadors on Oct. 19 for what it said was an "irresponsible" statement calling for a just and speedy resolution to Kavala's case. He has been in prison since late 2017 without being convicted.

Kavala was acquitted last year of charges related to 2013 nationwide protests, but the ruling was overturned this year and combined with charges in another case related to a coup attempt in 2016.

In a statement this week, the ambassadors called on Turkey to secure Kavala's swift release.

"I told our foreign minister: We can't have the luxury of hosting these people in our country. Is it for you to give Turkey such a lesson? Who do you think you are?" Erdoğan was quoted as telling reporters on his plane returning from a trip to Africa.

He rejected any suggestion that the Turkish judiciary was not independent. "Our judiciary is one of the nicest examples of independence," he said.

Asked by reporters if Turkey would take any more measures against the ambassadors, foreign ministry spokesperson Tanju Bilgiç said Ankara had the liberty to take steps as it saw fit and would do so "when the time comes," without elaborating.

"The duty of ambassadors is not to interfere in the domestic matters of the countries where they are posted," Bilgiç told a briefing in Ankara. "As an independent country, Turkey can take the necessary measures when it sees fit."

Rights groups say Kavala's case is emblematic of a crackdown on dissent under Erdoğan.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) called for Kavala's immediate release in late 2019 over a lack of reasonable suspicion that he committed an offense, ruling that his detention served to silence him.

The Council of Europe has said it will begin infringement proceedings against Turkey if Kavala is not released. Turkey would be the second country against which infringement proceedings have been launched.

The other parties to the ambassadors' statement were Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland and New Zealand.

The next hearing in the case against Kavala, who has denied all charges, and others will be held on Nov. 26.

Commenting on another political prisoner on Oct. 21, Erdoğan called Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) former co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş a "terrorist."