The President of the European Council, David Sassoli, accused Turkey of sliding into authoritarianism following the Turkish President’s intention to expel ten ambassadors from the country.
“The expulsion of ten ambassadors is a sign of the authoritarian drift of the Turkish government. We will not be intimidated.
“Freedom for Osman Kavala.” wrote Sassoli on his twitter account.
Erdogan’s threat to expel the ten ambassadors was triggered by a declaration by the ambassadors of the US, Germany, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden that called for the release of businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala.
Seven of the ambassadors represent Turkey’s NATO allies and the expulsions, if carried out, would open the deepest rift with the West in Erdogan’s 19 years in power.
“I have ordered our foreign minister to declare these 10 ambassadors as persona non grata as soon as possible,” Erdogan said on Saturday, referring to a term used in diplomacy that signifies the first step before expulsion. He did not set a firm date.
Philanthropist Osman Kavala has been in prison since late 2017, charged with financing nationwide protests in 2013 and with involvement in a 2016 failed coup. He denies the charges.
“They must know and understand Turkey,” Erdogan added, accusing the envoys of “indecency”.
The targeted embassies have not yet received any official notification from the Turkish Foreign Ministry so it might be another case of President Erdogan’s grandstanding to appease domestic nationalist sentiment amid a struggling economy and bad polling numbers.