MEPs warn of Turkey diplomatic crisis as ambassadors expelled

Ten ambassadors declared persona non-grata in Turkey over support for Osman Kavala, illegally detained businessman

Imprisoned Turkish businessman Osman Kavala
Imprisoned Turkish businessman Osman Kavala

Turkish president Reccep Erdoğan issued instructions to his foreign minister yesterday to have ten ambassadors expelled from Turkey.

The countries concerned are Canada, France, Finland, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the United States of America.

The move comes after the nations in question issued requests that prominent Turkish entrepreneur and philanthropist Osman Kavala be released from prison.

Kavala has been imprisoned without a sentence for close to four years now, with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) recently issuing a final warning on the case.

The Spanish MEP and standing rapporteur for Turkey, Nacho Sánchez Amor (S&D) as well as the chair of the EU-Turkey parliamentary delegation Sergey Lagodinsky (Greens/EFA, DE) called Erdoğan’s decision “incomprehensible and completely baseless”.

“We can only understand them as an attempt to divert attention from the real urgent issues, domestic and bilateral. It is not these ambassadors or their governments who decided it is Turkey’s responsibility to release Osman Kavala. It is the European Court of Human Rights that ordered his immediate release in December 2019, reiterated afterwards by six decisions and an interim resolution by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. Turkey is therefore obliged to respect this Court’s decision, just as it is under the obligation to follow a similar ruling on Selahattin Demirtaş.”

The MEPs accused of Turkey of having a serious deficit in rule of law, and called for comprehensive reforms.

“It is unacceptable that attacks on critical voices and interference with the judiciary have continuously been happening in Turkey. It is more than unfortunate that now an attempt has been made to silence the criticism from abroad. Our position on Osman Kavala’s case and criticism of other democracy deficits in Turkey will remain undeterred despite this sad development,” the MEPs said.

They warned that Europe would be on the verge of a serious diplomatic crisis unless averted now.

“We call on Turkish authorities to refrain from steps that could result in an even worse scenario in our relations than the difficult period we have been living through during the recent years, a crisis that we just were hoping to overcome. Once again, we call on Turkey to comply with its international commitments and abide by the ECtHR rulings with regard, among others, to the cases of Osman Kavala and Selahattin Demirtaş.”

The Council of Europe said the Turkish Assize Court’s decision to prolong the detention of Osman Kavala was a violation of Turkey’s obligation to abide by a final judgment of the ECHR.

Kavala has been in detention for 46 months despite the December 2019 judgment that found that the authorities had targeted him in order to silence him, as part of a dissuasive effect on the work of human rights defenders.

The Council of Europe accused the Turkish justice system of exhibiting “unprecedented levels of disregard” for basic principles of law. “Kavala should have not been in detention in the first place. His prolonged, illegal detention displays contempt for human rights and the rule of law. He must be released now.”

Apart from being a successful businessman, Kavala is a well-known civil-society figure in Turkey who over the years contributed to the establishment of several publishing houses and civil society organizations.

Kavala stands accused of financing nationwide “Gezi Park protests” in 2013 as well as involvement in the 2016 attempted coup.

Once he was acquitted of the first charge he was almost immediately slapped with the other, even after that would not stand he was kept in custody on charges of “political or military espionage.”

Despite being acquitted several times and multiple ECHR rulings he remains in custody.           

Most recently the ruling on the Gezi park trial was reversed as well as Kavala’s case being merged with another coup case accusing him of collaborating with Henri Barkey, a prominent Turkish scholar in the United States.

On top of that, Kavala’s charges were also merged into the “Carsi” trial pertaining to 35 members of the Besiktas football fan group Carsi who also stand accused of aiding or abetting a coup.

The Council of Europe issued its final warning on the 17 Septemberm stating that infringement procedures would be levelled against Ankara if they do not release Kavala by the end of November 2021.

Turkey refuses to acknowledge these rulings and warnings.

Ewropej Funded by the European Union

This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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