Ambassadors “Persona Non-Grata”: Turkey’s National Interests, Foreign Policy or Political Considerations?
Turkish businessman Kavala has been in prison for four years for his suspected role in the Gezi Park protests and his involvement in a failed coup attempt in 2016.
This research note discusses that the Turkish businessman Kavala has been in prison for four years for his suspected role in the Gezi Park protests and his involvement in a failed coup attempt in 2016. Kavala is one of Turkey's most well-known civil society figures. Since the early 1980s, the billionaire has helped to establish multiple publishing enterprises in Turkey, and a decade later, he has supported numerous civil society organizations.
Osman Kavala was one of Turkey's most prominent activists. He has been held in pre-trial imprisonment in Silivri Prison since October 2017. Authorities in Turkey accuse him of initiating the Gezi Park demonstrations in 2013.
Significantly, President Erdogan has accused him of being the Turkish leg of billionaire US philanthropist George Soros, whom he claims is behind insurgencies in several nations. He has been held in detention pending the outcome of his latest trial, and he has rejected the charges.
Whereas, the indictment of September 2020, according to Kavala's lawyers, was nothing more than a presumed fantasy based on no real evidence. Human rights organizations around the world have slammed Kavala's arrest, claiming the charges are politically motivated. Additionally, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) found that Kavala's arrest was politically motivated and it was carried out with the goal of "bringing other human rights defenders, to the political prisoners." (DW, 2021).
Following a similar line, the Council of Europe has given a warning to Turkey to comply with a European Court of Human Rights ruling to free Kavala pending trial, which was issued in 2019. Otherwise, it will file an infringement complaint against Turkey.
The ambassadors of the ten nations issued a unified statement urging Turkey to abide by the Council of Europe's judgments. Germany, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, and the United States all requested a "fair and swift" settlement to Kavala's case (DW, 2021).
They further stressed, "The ongoing delays in Kaval's trial, which include the merging of many cases and the establishment of new ones following a prior acquittal, throw a pall over Turkish court respect for democracy, the rule of law, and transparency. In light of the European Court of Human Rights' judgment, they requested Turkey to release it as soon as possible. These ambassadors demanded a fair and expeditious settlement to his case under Turkey's international responsibilities and domestic legislation."
Most importantly, Kavala who has been imprisoned since 2017, has been frequently demanded their release by international observers and human rights organizations. They claim that the detention is due to political concerns. While the officials deny the allegations and maintain that Turkish courts are independent.
While the Turkish government views the ambassadors' declaration as direct involvement in domestic politics. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the diplomats' behavior and threatened to expel them from the country. In an intensifying disagreement with the countries, who intervened in the case of a detained businessman by demanding his release.
After their statement demanding the release of Osman Kavala, President Erdogan authorized the Turkish foreign minister to proclaim the ambassadors of ten nations to Turkey “persona non grata”. Notably, when a diplomat is declared persona non grata, they are banned in their host country and they are now just one step away from expulsion.
In a speech, Erdogan remarked, “I have directed our foreign minister to expedite the declaration of these ten ambassadors,” These ten ambassadors must be declared persona non grata. They will be familiar with and understand Turkey”. He went on to say that these ambassadors would not release "terrorists" in their nations if they did not know and understand them (Arab News, 2021).
For this reason, tensions between Ankara and the United States, Canada, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, and New Zealand soared over Turkey's president proclaimed the envoys "persona non grata."
Moreover, the ambassadors had been instructed to "keep within the responsibilities of their duties after an insincere and double-standard approach and It was highlighted in our constitution that Turkey is a democratic state of law that protects human rights, and it was reminded that such reckless utterances would not affect the Turkish court".
The government further noted that the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judgments are frequently disregarded and not followed, claiming that focusing solely on Turkish cases to keep the Kavala case on the table at all times is ineffective (DW, 2021).
Whereas, former Turkish ambassador to Azerbaijan and senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment in Washington, Alper Coskun, tweeted, “Expelling ambassadors is not a good strategy to protect national interests. Turkey's isolation has been exacerbated by its rash foreign policy aimed at domestic politics” (Arab News, 2021).