Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at the USA and European countries and threatened to expel their ambassadors on Friday for demanding the release of billionaire philanthropist and businessman Osman Kavala, who has been languishing in jail in Turkey since 2017.
"I told our foreign minister that we cannot have the luxury of hosting them in our country," Middle East Eye cited Erdogan as saying.
According to Turkish Daily Sabah, Turkey's Foreign Ministry summoned Tuesday the ambassadors of 10 countries and accused them of meddling in the Turkish judiciary.
He was furious when asked by journalists to comment on the joint statement issued by these countries for the release of Kavala.
"How dare you teach such a lesson to Turkey? Who are you? What do they say? 'Release Kavala.' Do you leave bandits, murderers, terrorists in your own countries?” said an angry Erdogan.
In their statement, the United States, Germany, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden called for a "just and speedy resolution to Kavala's case".
The 64-year-old Osman Kavala is a Turkish businessperson, activist, philanthropist who has contributed to the establishment of several publishing companies in Turkey since the early 1980s, going on to support numerous civil society organizations a decade later.
In 2002, he founded Anadolu Kultur, a nonprofit organization in Istanbul supporting cultural and social projects. The organization's objectives included enabling the production and promotion of arts and culture in Turkey, supporting local initiatives, emphasizing cultural diversity and rights and strengthening local and international collaborations.
He was also a founding member of philanthropist George Soros Open Society Foundation in Turkey.
Kavala was previously accused of orchestrating and financing the Gezi Park protests in Istanbul in 2013. He was taken into custody on October 18, 2017, following a meeting with the German Goethe Institute concerning a joint project with Anadolu Kultur.
After two weeks in custody, on November 1, 2017, Kavala was arrested on the charges of "attempting to overthrow the constitutional order" and "attempting to overthrow the government.”
But despite being acquitted in February 2021 he was immediately charged with "attempting to abolish the constitutional order" after Erdogan criticised the court's decision.
Rights groups and Western governments have viewed Kavala's case as a critical test for the independence of Turkey's judiciary and the rule of law.
Last month, the 47-member Council of Europe – of which Turkey is a member – said it would start infringement proceedings against Turkey, unless Kavala is released before its next committee of ministers meeting in November. The infringement proceedings could result in punitive measures against Turkey, including its possible suspension from the organization that promotes democracy and human rights.
Turkish President Erdogan’s diplomatic frictions were compounded when the global financial watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF) put Turkey in the grey list for failing to properly combat money laundering and terrorism financing.