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Turkey: Erdogan threatens to expel 10 Western ambassadors over Osman Kavala row

The president denounces the envoys over their calls for the release of Turkish entrepreneur and philanthropist
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during the parliamentary group meeting in Ankara, on 6 October 2021 (AFP)
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Ankara

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday that Ankara "doesn’t have the luxury" to host the ambassadors of 10 Western countries, including the US, who asked for the release of Turkish businessman Osman Kavala in a public letter earlier this week.

“The European Court of Human Rights has taken a decision. They would like to convict Turkey regarding Kavala, the Soros leftover,” Erdogan told journalists who accompanied him to his trip to Africa, accusing the Turkish businessman of ties to famed billionaire financier George Soros.

“Those who defend this Soros leftover are trying to get him released. I told our foreign minister that we don’t have the luxury of hosting these [ambassadors] in our country.”

Turkey earlier this week summoned the ambassadors of the 10 countries to call them out for their public statement.

Tanju Bilgic, the spokesperson for the Turkish foreign ministry, told journalists on Thursday that Turkey was a sovereign state and further steps could be taken against the ambassadors, which he wouldn’t reveal.

Since 2017, Turkey has imprisoned Kavala without charge over a series of charges linked to anti-government protests in 2013 and a failed military coup in 2016. Kavala denies the accusations.

But despite being acquitted in February 2021 of financing the 2013 anti-government protests, he was immediately charged with "attempting to abolish the constitutional order" after Erdogan criticised the court's decision.

Rights groups and Western governments have viewed Kavala's case as a critical test for the independence of Turkey's judiciary and the rule of law. In a rare statement released on Monday, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the United States called for a "just and speedy resolution" to Kavala's case.

"The continuing delays in his trial... cast a shadow over respect for democracy, the rule of law and transparency in the Turkish judiciary system," they said.

The embassies called on Turkey to follow the rulings of the Council of Europe, a human rights body it joined in 1950.