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Turkey to declare 10 ambassadors 'persona non grata'

The move to declare the 10 envoys — including those of Germany and the United States — "persona non grata" means they are now just one step from expulsion after calling for the release of activist Osman Kavala.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sits next to a Turkish flag

Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party has been in power since 2002

Ambassadors from 10 countries who appealed for the release of Turkish activist Osman Kavala are to be declared "persona non grata," President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday.

The designation is a diplomatic term that signifies the first step before expulsion.

What does this move mean?

Erdogan did not specifically clarify whether his order meant that the diplomats — who he accused of "indecency" — would be ordered to leave the country.

"I have ordered our foreign minister to declare these 10 ambassadors as persona non grata as soon as possible," Erdogan said.

He added that: "They must leave here the day they no longer know Turkey."

The Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned the ambassadors on Tuesday for what it said was an "irresponsible" statement.

The envoys had issued a rare joint document that called for a speedy resolution to the case of the civil society leader Kavala, who has been in prison since 2017.

The ambassadors concerned are the Ankara representatives of the US, Germany, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden.

With the move, Erdogan appears to be on a "collision course with those countries," according to Dorian Jones, DW correspondent in Istanbul.

"It seems he wants a diplomatic showdown, and Turkey is facing an unprecedented diplomatic crisis," Jones said.

Watch video 04:44

Osman Kavala: Imprisoned businessman, philanthropist (03.02.2021)

Germany consulting with the other countries

In response to Erdogan's move, the German Foreign Ministry said it was in talks with the nine other countries affected.

"We have taken note of Turkish President Erdogan's statements and the reporting on this and are currently consulting intensively with the nine other countries concerned," the German Press Agency (dpa) quoted a ministerial source as saying.

European Parliament President David Sassoli said on Twitter that Erdogan's move "is a sign of the authoritarian drift of the Turkish government."

"We will not be intimidated. Freedom for Osman Kavala," he added.

Norway said its embassy had not received any notification from Turkish authorities.

"Our ambassador has not done anything that would justify the expulsion," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Trude Maseide told reporters in Norway.

"We will continue to call on Turkey to comply with democratic standards and the rule of law to which the country committed itself under the European Human Rights Convention," Maaseide said.

Danish and Dutch officials have also said they would continue pressing Turkey on human rights and democracy. 

Who is Osman Kavala?

Kavala, a businessman and philanthropist, has been in jail in Turkey for four years without being convicted, despite the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) calling for his release.

He was imprisoned in late 2017, charged with financing the Gezi Park protests in 2013 and taking part in a failed coup in 2016, which he denies.

Kavala is known for his support of the arts and his funding of projects promoting cultural diversity and minority rights. Erdogan has accused him of being the "Turkish leg'' of billionaire US philanthropist George Soros, who the president alleges has been behind insurrections in many countries.

Final warning to Ankara

The ECHR has stated that Kavala's rights have been violated and ordered his immediate release.

It concluded that Kavala's arrest was based on political motives, without any reasonable evidence backing the accusations. However, Turkish officials did not implement the decision and said the ECHR's judgment was not final.

On September 17, the Council of Europe issued Turkey a final warning to release the 64-year-old entrepreneur.

It warned that infringement proceedings against Ankara would start at the end of November, if Kavala was not freed by then. 

rc/rt (AP, Reuters)