Turkish Foreign Ministry officials have tried to find a way to prevent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan from giving the order to declare 10 Western ambassadors "persona non grata," but failed significantly, ANKA News Agency reported on Oct. 23.
Erdoğan on Oct. 23 said that he had told his foreign ministry to expel the ambassadors of the United States and nine other Western countries for demanding the release of philanthropist Osman Kavala, two days after he threatened to do so.
"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 on Oct. 21.
According to ANKA, Erdoğan conveyed his order to declare the envoys "persona non grata" on the same day and the ministry had been seeking a solution to the conflict.
The Foreign Ministry looked for ways to make Erdoğan change his mind on the issue, but the president insisted, ANKA said.
Seven of the ambassadors Erdoğan seeks to expel represent Turkey's NATO allies and the expulsions, if carried out, would open the deepest rift with the West in Erdoğan's 19 years in power.
Kavala, a contributor to numerous civil society groups, has been in prison for four years, charged with financing nationwide protests in 2013 and with involvement in a failed coup in 2016. He has remained in detention while his latest trial continues and denies the charges.
In a joint statement on Oct. 18, the ambassadors of Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland, New Zealand and the United States called for a just and speedy resolution to 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 foreign minister and said what must be done: These 10 ambassadors must be declared persona non grata (undesirable) at once. You will sort it out immediately," Erdoğan said in a speech in the northwestern province of Eskişehir.
"They will know and understand Turkey. The day they do not know and understand Turkey, they will leave," he said to cheers from the crowd.
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 coup attempt.
Rights groups say his case is emblematic of a crackdown on dissent under Erdoğan.
Six of the countries involved are EU members, including Germany and France. European Parliament President David Sassoli tweeted: "The expulsion of ten ambassadors is a sign of the authoritarian drift of the Turkish government. We will not be intimidated. Freedom for Osman Kavala."
A source at the German Foreign Ministry told Reuters the 10 countries were consulting with one another.
Kavala said on Oct. 22 he would no longer attend his trial as a fair hearing was impossible after recent comments by Erdoğan.
Erdoğan was quoted on Oct. 21 as saying the ambassadors in question would not release "bandits, murderers and terrorists" in their own countries.
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 had been intended to silence him.
It issued a similar ruling this year in the case of Selahattin Demirtaş, former head of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), who has been held in jail for nearly five years.
The Council of Europe, which oversees the implementation of ECHR decisions, has said it will begin infringement proceedings against Turkey if Kavala is not released.
The next hearing in Kavala's trial is on Nov. 26.