Turkey Summons Ten Ambassadors After Call for Jailed Philanthropist's Release

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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters during the Grand Congress of his ruling AK Party in Ankara, Turkey, in March.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters during the Grand Congress of his ruling AK Party in Ankara, Turkey, in March.Credit: UMIT BEKTAS/ REUTERS

Turkey's foreign ministry summoned the ambassadors of 10 countries, including the United States, Germany and France, over a statement calling for the urgent release of philanthropist Osman Kavala, state-owned Anadolu agency said on Tuesday.

The statement, shared by some of the embassies on Monday, called for a just and speedy resolution to Kavala's case, four years after he was jailed, saying the case "cast a shadow over respect for democracy."

Kavala, a businessman, has been in jail in Turkey for four years without being convicted, despite the European Court of Human Rights calling for his release.

He was acquitted last year of charges related to nationwide protests in 2013, but the ruling was overturned this year and combined with charges in another case related to a coup attempt in 2016.

Turkish people gather during an anti-government protest on Taksim square in Istanbul, in 2013.Credit: AFP

Rights groups have described the trials against Kavala as symbolic of a crackdown on dissent under President Tayyip Erdogan.

"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 embassies said in the statement.

"Noting the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights on the matter, we call for Turkey to secure his urgent release," the statement said.

The other countries named in the statement were Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland and New Zealand.

In response, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said Turkey is a democratic state of law. "Ambassadors making a recommendation and suggestion to the judiciary in an ongoing case is unacceptable," he said on Twitter.

"Your recommendation and suggestion cast a shadow on your understanding of law and democracy," Soylu said.

Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul said diplomats need to respect laws and ambassadors cannot make suggestions to courts.

The Council of Europe has said it will begin infringement proceedings against Turkey if Kavala is not released.

The next hearing in the case against Kavala, who has denied all charges, and others will be held on November 26.

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