Turkey Threatens to Expel U.S. Ambassador for Condemning Detention of Activist

President Erdogan Set to Oust 10 Western Envoys Calling for Justice in Kavala Case

10/25/2021 Turkey (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for the expulsion of 10 Western envoys, including the U.S. ambassador, from Turkey. The envoys represent countries that have made public statements advocating for the release of Osman Kavala, a Turkish activist jailed since 2017 for his work on recognition of the Armenian genocide.

According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, Erdogan made the threats during a Saturday rally. “These 10 ambassadors must be declared personae non gratae at once,” said Erdogan. “I gave the necessary order to our foreign minister and said what must be done. These people will come to understand Turkey.”

The statements from Erdogan come in response to a joint statement signed by the U.S. and several other Western nations calling on Turkey to release Kavala, in accordance with a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The letter added to the already-high tensions between Turkey and the United States, as U.S. leaders have consistently challenged its NATO ally Turkey on human rights issues throughout this year.

Kavala was originally arrested in 2017 after gaining much support and influence for his work in the protection of non-Muslim cultural sites and the recognition of the Armenian genocide of 1915, an atrocity that the Turkish government has systematically denied. In 2020, the ECHR released a statement condemning the charges against Kavala, saying, “The measures taken against him pursued an ulterior purpose, namely to reduce him to silence as an NGO activist and human-rights defender, to dissuade other persons from engaging in such activities and to paralyze civil society in the country.”

Kavala has declined to attend hearings on his case in an act of protest against the injustice within the Turkish courts.

ICC published a report last year outlining Turkey’s religious freedom violations against Christians, including the abuses committed by the Turkish government throughout Kavala’s case. Kavala continues to suffer from the human rights abuses of Turkey and remains imprisoned.

ICC’s Director of Advocacy, Matias Perttula, responded to the recent statements from President Erdogan, saying, “We are troubled by the injustices committed by the Turkish government against Osman Kavala. Though we are dismayed to hear the threats against the U.S. ambassador to Turkey, we encourage the U.S. government to continue publicly condemning Turkey for its religious freedom abuses. ICC will continue to monitor Kavala’s case and the status of the U.S. ambassador.”

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