Turkey’s authoritarian president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has withdrawn his threat of expelling several ambassadors including Norway’s Erling Skjønsberg, after they’d urged the release of Erdogan critic Osman Kavala from prison. The diplomats stressed this week that they weren’t interfering in Turkey’s internal affairs, only urging respect for democratic standards and the rule of law.
Erdogan has threatened to declare all the ambassadors who’d publicly supported Kavala as “persona non grata.” That’s the step before direct expulsion from the country. The ambassadors who’d read a statement urging the release of Kavala represented the US, Canada, Netherlands, New Zealand, Germany, Denmark, Finland, France, Norway and Sweden.
They insisted they had not violated an international convention against meddling in a country’s internal affairs. Rather, they claimed, they were merely urging Turkey to uphold democratic and legal standards and would continue to do so.
Erdogan backed down, reported news bureau AFP, claiming it was the ambassadors who stepped back from their criticism. He also claimed they’d “be more careful now.”
Erdogan has kept Kavala in prison without any conviction since 2017, when he became a symbol of Erdogan’s increasing intolerance of criticism. The ambassadors claim Erdogan is violating Kavala’s human rights, not least after the European Court of Human Rights concluded the same. Kavala remains accused, but not convicted, of having a role in demonstrations against Erdogan’s government and public opposition aimed at ending Erdogan’s rule.