ISTANBUL (Dispatches) – Turkey has summoned the ambassadors of 10 Western nations to lodge its complaint with them over a joint statement calling for the release of Turkish activist Osman Kavala.
Kavala, 64, has been in prison since October 2017, and is currently being tried on a range of charges including espionage and attempting to overthrow the government, stemming from alleged involvement in the 2013 Gezi protests and the 2016 coup attempt. He denies the allegations.
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.
Late 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.
On Tuesday, the ambassadors arrived at the Turkish foreign ministry in Ankara and met Turkish officials for about 20 minutes to hear a rare joint rebuke of Western diplomats.
The foreign ministry said in a statement after the meeting that the diplomats had “crossed the line” of acceptable diplomatic behavior by issuing the statement calling for Kavala’s release.
“It was emphasized that Turkey is a democratic state of law that is respectful towards human rights and they were reminded that the Turkish judiciary would not be affected by such an irresponsible statement,” the ministry said.
The next court hearing of Kavala, who has denied all the accusations, is scheduled for November 26.
Responding to the embassies’ statement, Turkey’s Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said on Monday “It is not acceptable for ambassadors to make a recommendation or suggestion to the judiciary for an ongoing case.”
In another tense development, the first step toward the imposition of new sanctions on Turkey was decided on Monday by EU foreign ministers at their meeting in Luxembourg, in response to Ankara’s unilateral actions in the town of Varosha in occupied northern Cyprus and the harassment of the Nautical Geo research ship within Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone.
EU High Representative Josep Borrell said after the meeting that EU ministers had decided in the summer that if such activities continued, they would ask the European External Action Service to prepare an options paper, which is both an analysis of the situation and a proposal for a series of measures the Council could consider if it wishes to take a decision.
This document, he said, is the first step in considering decision making in this regard.
Borrell referred to what he described as Turkey’s unacceptable intervention against European ships.
Meanwhile, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay threatened both Greece and Cyprus on Monday.