Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Saturday said he had ordered the country’s Foreign Ministry to declare 10 ambassadors from western countries “persona non grata” after the diplomats called for the release of an imprisoned civil-society leader.
The ambassadors on Monday released a joint statement marking the fourth anniversary of the detention of Osman Kavala, a prominent businessman, activist and philanthropist who promoted civil rights in Turkey before he was first detained in 2017. The ambassadors called for Kavala’s “urgent release.”
It was not clear if Erdogan’s comments meant Turkey would immediately expel the ambassadors from the United States, Germany, France, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Canada, Norway and New Zealand, who all signed the letter.
Erdogan said they “should either understand Turkey or they should leave,” local news reports said.
Kavala’s detention has drawn wide international criticism, including from the European Court of Human Rights.
The western ambassadors were summoned to the Foreign Ministry on Tuesday and Erdogan already lashed out at the group in public remarks on Thursday, calling their demands “irresponsible.”
Declaring the officials “persona non grata” would no longer guarantee diplomatic immunity and is usually tantamount to expulsion.