ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized the ambassadors of 10 countries over their call for the release of a jailed philanthropist, calling their demand “irresponsible,” local media reported Thursday.
Erdogan reportedly suggested that the envoys, including those from the U.S., Germany and France, were not welcome in Turkey, according to the Haberturk website and other Turkish news outlets.
“I told our foreign minister that we cannot afford to host them in our country,” the Haberturk website reported Erdogan as saying. “Is it your place to teach such a lesson to Turkey?”
Ambassadors representing 10 countries were summoned to Turkey’s foreign ministry on Tuesday after releasing a statement calling for a fair and timely resolution to the case of Osman Kavala, a businessman and philanthropist held in prison since 2017 despite not having been convicted of a crime.
The countries also included the Netherlands, Canada, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway and New Zealand.
Kavala was acquitted last year of charges linked to nationwide anti-government protests in 2013 but the ruling was overturned and joined to charges relating to a 2016 coup attempt.
The European Court of Human Rights called for his release in 2019, saying his incarceration acted to silence him and was not supported by evidence of an offense. The Council of Europe says it will start infringement proceedings against Turkey at the end of November if Kavala is not released.
Erdogan, who had been on a trip to Nigeria, Togo and Angola, also defended the reputation of Turkey’s justice system, which has been criticized for being too close to the government. He said the judiciary was the “nicest examples of independence.”
The next hearing in Kavala’s case will be held on Nov. 26.
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