Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has criticized the ambassadors of 10 countries for calling for the release of philanthropist Osman Kavala, saying that Ankara should not be allowed to receive them.
Erdogan, after returning from a trip to Africa on Thursday, told reporters that he had told Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu that Turkey “cannot have the luxury of hosting this group.”
Then he directed his words directly to the ambassadors. Would you like to teach Turkey such a lesson? He said.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilecik said Ankara was free to take any steps it deems necessary and that “when the time is right”, without going into details.
“It is the duty of ambassadors not to interfere in the internal affairs of the countries in which they work,” Bilgic told a news conference in Ankara. “As an independent country, Turkey can take necessary measures when it deems it necessary.”
The embassies of the United States, Canada, France, Finland, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden issued a rare joint statement calling for his immediate release, on Monday, the fourth anniversary of Kavala’s arrest.
“The continued delays in his trial, including from merging several cases and creating new cases after a previous acquittal, casts a shadow over the respect for democracy, rule of law and transparency in the Turkish justice system,” the statement said.
On Tuesday, the US State Department called on ambassadors, including those of the United States, Germany and France, for what it described as an “irresponsible” statement.
In a statement after the meeting, the State Department said the diplomats had crossed the “line” of acceptable diplomatic behaviour.
Kavala, 64, has been in prison since October 2017 without being convicted. He is currently on trial on a range of charges, including espionage and attempting to overthrow the government, for his alleged involvement in the 2013 anti-government Gezi protests and the 2016 coup attempt. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Kavala was acquitted last year of charges related to nationwide protests in 2013, but the sentence was overturned this year and linked to charges in another case related to an attempted coup in 2016.
Next meeting is on November 26. Kavala’s case was merged with that of 51 other defendants – including a group of football fans – who were accused of overthrowing the government during the Gezi protests.
Turkish and international human rights organizations have condemned Kavala’s trial and the European Court of Human Rights has ordered his release. The Council of Europe has said it will initiate infringement proceedings against Turkey if Kavala is not released.
Erdogan denied the lack of independence of the Turkish judiciary. “Our cause is one of the finest examples of independence,” he was quoted by local media as saying.
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