Turkeyâ€™s President Recep Tayyip ErdoÄŸan on Saturday said he had ordered the countryâ€™s Foreign Ministry to declare 10 ambassadors from western countries â€œpersona non grataâ€ after the diplomats called for the release of an imprisoned civil-society leader.
The ambassadors on Monday released a joint statement marking the fourth anniversary of the detention of Osman Kavala, a prominent businessman, activist and philanthropist who promoted civil rights in Turkey before he was first detained in 2017. The ambassadors called for Kavalaâ€™s â€œurgent release.â€
It was not clear if Erdoganâ€™s comments meant Turkey would immediately expel the ambassadors from the United States, Germany, France, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Canada, Norway and New Zealand, who all signed the letter.
Erdogan said they â€œshould either understand Turkey or they should leave,â€ local news reports said.
Kavalaâ€™s detention has drawn wide international criticism, including from the European Court of Human Rights.
Declaring the officials â€œpersona non grataâ€ would no longer guarantee diplomatic immunity and is usually tantamount to expulsion.