Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has slammed the ambassadors of 10 countries for their call for philanthropist Osman Kavala‘s release, saying Ankara should not be hosting them.
Upon returning from a trip to Africa on Thursday, Erdogan told reporters he had told Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu that Turkey “can’t have the luxury of hosting this lot”.
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He then directed his words directly at the ambassadors. “Is it for you to give Turkey such a lesson? Who do you think you are?”, he said.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Tanju Bilgic 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,” Bilgic told a briefing in Ankara. “As an independent country, Turkey can take the necessary measures when it sees fit.”
On Monday, the fourth anniversary of Kavala’s detention, the embassies of the United States, Canada, France, Finland, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden released a rare joint statement calling for his immediate release.
“The continuing delays in his trial, including by merging different cases and creating new ones after a previous acquittal, cast a shadow over respect for democracy, the rule of law and transparency in the Turkish judiciary system,” the statement said.
The foreign ministry summoned the ambassadors on Tuesday, including those of the US, Germany and France, for what it said was an “irresponsible” statement.
The foreign ministry said in a statement after the meeting that 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 being tried on a range of charges including espionage and attempting to overthrow the government, stemming from 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 ruling was overturned this year and combined with charges in another case related to a coup attempt in 2016.
The next hearing will be held on November 26. Kavala’s case has been merged with that of 51 other defendants – including a group of football fans – accused of trying to overthrow the government during the Gezi protests.
Kavala’s trial has been condemned by Turkish and international human rights groups, and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ordered his release. The Council of Europe has said it will begin infringement proceedings against Turkey if Kavala is not released.
Erdogan has denied that the Turkish judiciary was not independent. “Our judiciary is one of the nicest examples of independence,” local media quoted him as saying.