Ambassador rebuked in Turkey

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Norway’s Embassy in Turkey has been scolded and its ambassador among those called in for a rebuke by the Turkish government on Tuesday. His offense was the Norwegian Embassy’s participation in a demonstration, along with nine other embassies in Ankara, against Turkey’s imprisonment of government critic Osman Kavala.

Norway’s embassy in Turkey is located in this high-rise in Ankara. PHOTO: Utenriksdepartementet

Ambassador Erling Skjønsberg and the nine others represented Canada, France, Finland, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the USA. They noted in public remarks that Monday marked “four years since the ongoing detention of Osman Kavala began.” The highly educated businessman and philanthropist, known for challenging Turkey’s authoritarian president Tayyip Erdogan, was accused of having an alleged role in protests at the Gezi Park in Istanbul in 2013. When he was finally acquitted for that, he was immediately charged and imprisoned again for alleged espionage and participation in an attempted coup in 2016.

Ambassador Erling Skjønsberg PHOTO: UD

The ambassadors expressed concern over “continuing delays in his trial,” not least because some of the delays included “merging different cases and creating new ones after a previous acquittal.” They contended that has “cast a shadow over respect for democracy, the rule of law and transparency in the Turkish judiciary.”

They further stated that they “believe a just and speedy resolution to his case must be in line with Turkey’s international obligations and domestic laws.” Given recent rulings by the European Court of Human Rights on Kavala’s case, the ambassadors added, “we call for Turkey to secure his urgent release.” Their statement was also published on the Norwegian Embassy’s website, in both English and Turkish.

That did not sit well with Erdogan, who’s not known for tolerating criticism. All 10 ambassadors were thus called in to explain themselves on Tuesday, including Skjønsberg, who has served as Norway’s ambassador to Turkey since 2019. Before that he was Norway’s Special Representative to Sudan and South Sudan, served as ambassador to Afghanistan from 2014 to 2016 and to Azerbaijan and Georgia from 2010 to 2014. Skjønsberg remains accredited as ambassador to Azerbaijan.

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that a spoksman for Erdogan claimed “all diplomatic envoys are obliged to respect the sovereignty and independence of our country” and refrain from meddling in Turkey’s internal affairs. Erdogan has earlier claimed Kavala was trying to undermine his government.

Kavala, meanwhile, has won widespread international support. The charges he’s now facing could lead to life in prison.

newsinenglish.no staff