ANKARA, Turkey (AFP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday told his foreign minister to expel the ambassadors of 10 countries, including Germany and the United States (US), who had appealed for the release of a jailed civil society leader.
The envoys issued a highly unusual joint statement on Monday saying the continued detention of Parisian-born philanthropist and activist Osman Kavala “cast a shadow” over Turkey.
Kavala, 64, has been in jail without a conviction since 2017 on charges linked to 2013 anti-government protests and a failed military coup in 2016.
Human rights watchdog the Council of Europe has issued a final warning to Turkey to comply with a 2019 European Court of Human Rights order to release Kavala pending trial.
The escalating row with the Western countries — most of which are also NATO allies — caps a torrid week for Turkey in which it was added to a global money-laundering and terrorism-financing blacklist and its currency plunged over fears of economic mismanagement and the risk of hyperinflation.
“I have ordered our foreign minister to declare these 10 ambassadors as persona non grata as soon as possible,” Erdogan said, using a diplomatic term meaning the first step before expulsion.
“They must leave here the day they no longer know Turkey,” he said, accusing them of “indecency.”
Several European countries said late on Saturday they had received no official notification from Turkey.
“We are currently in intensive consultation with the nine other countries concerned,” the German Foreign Ministry said.
“Our ambassador has not done anything that would justify the expulsion,” Norwegian foreign ministry spokesperson Trude Maseide told media in her home country.
She vowed to continue pressing Turkey on human rights and democracy — comments echoed by Danish and Dutch officials.
The US was aware of the reports and was seeking clarity from the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a State Department spokesperson said.