Middle East

Turkey summons 10 ambassadors after call for philanthropist's release

3 minute read

Lawyers and supporters of the Gezi solidarity group gather in front of the Justice Palace, the Caglayan Courthouse, as a Turkish court began the re-trial of philanthropist Osman Kavala and 15 others over their role in nationwide protests in 2013, in Istanbul, Turkey, May 21, 2021. REUTERS/Dilara Senkaya/File Photo

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ISTANBUL, Oct 19 (Reuters) - Turkey's foreign ministry summoned the ambassadors of 10 countries, including the United States, Germany and France, on Tuesday over what it said was an "irresponsible" statement that called for the urgent release of philanthropist Osman Kavala.

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."

The Turkish businessman has been in prison since late 2017 without being convicted, in what rights groups say is symbolic of a crackdown on dissent under President Tayyip Erdogan.

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The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) called for Kavala's immediate release in late 2019 over a lack of reasonable suspicion that he committed an offence, ruling that his detention served to silence him. read more

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. read more

"The continuing delays in (Kavala's) 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," it said.

The other parties to the statement were Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland and New Zealand.

STATE OF LAW

The foreign ministry said it told ambassadors on Tuesday that it rejected the "unacceptable" statement aimed to pressure Turkey's judiciary and also politicise judicial processes.

"It was emphasised that Turkey is a democratic state of law that is respectful towards human rights and they were reminded that the Turkish judiciary would not be affected by such an irresponsible statement," it said.

The diplomats were warned that they should remain within their responsibilities as part of international agreements, the foreign ministry added.

Responding to the statement on Monday, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said Turkey is a democratic and lawful state. "Your recommendation and suggestion cast a shadow on your understanding of law and democracy," he said on Twitter.

The Council of Europe has said it will begin infringement proceedings against Turkey if Kavala is not released. Turkey would be the second country against which infringement proceedings have been launched. read more

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

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Additional reporting by Daren Butler; Editing by Karishma Singh and Jonathan Spicer

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