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Turkey’s Erdogan Wants US, French Ambassadors Declared ‘persona Non Grata’

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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday he had ordered the foreign ministry to declare 10 ambassadors from Western countries ‘persona non grata’ for calling for the release of philanthropist Osman Kavala.

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Expelling the 10 ambassadors, seven of whom represent governments from Turkey‘s NATO allies, would mark the deepest diplomatic rift with the West during Erdogan’s 19 years in power.

Osman Kavala has been in prison for four years, charged with financing nationwide protests in 2013 and with involvement in a failed coup in 2016. He has remained in detention while his trial continues, and denies the charges.

In a joint statement on October 18, the ambassadors of Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland, New Zealand and the United States called for a just and speedy resolution to Kavala’s case, and for his “urgent release”. They were summoned by the foreign ministry, which called the statement irresponsible.

“I gave the necessary order to our foreign minister and said what must be done: These 10 ambassadors must be declared persona non grata at once. You will sort it out immediately,” Erdogan said in a speech in the city of Eskisehir in northwest Turkey.

“They will know and understand Turkey. The day they do not know and understand Turkey, they will leave,” he said to cheers from the crowd.

‘Authoritarian drift’

Several European countries and leaders were quick to react to Erdogan’s statement.

Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands — whose envoys all signed the document — said late on Saturday they had received no official notification from Turkey.

“Our ambassador has not done anything that would justify the expulsion,” Norwegian foreign ministry spokeswoman Trude Maseide told media in her home country, vowing to continue pressing Turkey on human rights and democracy.

Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod also said his ministry had not received any official notification regarding the issue and that it was in close contact with its friends and allies. “We will continue to guard our common values and principles, as also expressed in the joint declaration,” he said in an emailed statement.

European Parliament President David Sassoli said on Twitter: “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.”

The US, German and French embassies and the White House and US State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

‘Delivering my defence will be meaningless’

Kavala was acquitted last year of charges related to the 2013 protests, but the ruling was overturned this year and combined with charges in another case related to the coup attempt.

Rights groups say his case is emblematic of a crackdown on dissent under Erdogan.

On Friday, Kavala said that it would be “meaningless” for him to attend his trial as a fair hearing was impossible given recent comments by Erdogan.

Erdogan was cited on Thursday as saying the ambassadors in question would not release “bandits, murderers and terrorists” in their own countries.

“Since there is no possibility of a fair trial under these circumstances, I believe participating in hearings and delivering my defence will be meaningless from now on,” Kavala said in a written statement.

The European Court of Human Rights called for Kavala’s immediate release in late 2019, saying there was no reasonable suspicion that he had committed an offence, and finding that his detention had been intended to silence him.

It issued a similar ruling this year in the case of Selahattin Demirtas, former head of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), who has been held in jail for nearly five years.

The Council of Europe, which oversees the implementation of ECHR decisions, has said it will begin infringement proceedings against Turkey if Kavala is not released.

The next hearing in the case against Kavala and others is due on November 26.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)

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Source: france24.com

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World at ‘inflection Point’ Warns Biden, Raising Alarm at Democracy Summit

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Democracy faces “sustained and alarming challenges” worldwide, US President Joe Biden said Thursday at the opening of a virtual summit on democracy with representatives from some 100 countries.

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Biden said trends were “largely pointing in the wrong direction” and that democracy needed “champions.”

“We stand at an inflection point,” he said. “Will we allow the backward slide of rights and democracy to continue unchecked?”

The two-day event, held by video link due to the coronavirus pandemic, was billed by the White House as US leadership in an existential struggle between democracies and powerful autocracies or dictatorships.

“Make no mistake, we’re at a moment of democratic reckoning,” said Uzra Zeya, the US under secretary of state for civilian security, democracy, and human rights. “Countries in virtually every region of the world have experienced degrees of democratic backsliding.”

The summit featured opening remarks from Biden and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, with representatives from some 100 governments, as well as NGOs, private businesses, philanthropical organisations and legislatures attending.

China, Russia not invited

The conference is a test of Biden’s assertion, made in his first foreign policy address in February, that he would return the US to global leadership to face down authoritarian forces led by China and Russia.

Both countries were not invited to this week’s event, which coincides with questions about the strength of America’s democracy. Biden is struggling to pass his agenda through a polarised Congress following the turbulent and disruptive Trump presidency.

Amid rising US-China tensions, the Biden administration’s decision to invite Taiwan has irked Beijing.

China considers Taiwan, a democratically ruled island, part of its territory.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said the invitation of Taiwan showed the US was only using democracy as “cover and a tool for it to advance its geopolitical objectives, oppress other countries, divide the world and serve its own interests.”

‘Lip service’

Washington used the run-up to the summit to announce sanctions against officials in Iran, Syria and Uganda it accuses of oppressing their populations, and against people it accuses of being tied to corruption and criminal gangs in Kosovo and Central America.

US officials hope to win support during the meetings for global initiatives, such as use of technology to enhance privacy or circumvent censorship, and for countries to make specific public commitments to improve their democracies before an in-person summit planned for late 2022.

Annie Boyajian, director of advocacy at non-profit Freedom House, said the event had the potential to push struggling democracies to do better and to spur coordination between democratic governments.

“But, a full assessment won’t be possible until we know what commitments there are and how they are implemented in the year ahead,” Boyajian said.

Zeya at the State Department said civil society would help hold the countries, including the United States, accountable. Zeya declined to say whether Washington would disinvite leaders who did not fulfill their pledges.

Human Rights Watch’s Washington director Sarah Holewinski said making the invitation to the 2022 summit dependent on delivering on commitments was the only way to get nations to step up.

Otherwise, Holewinski said, some “will only pay lip service to human rights and make commitments they never intend to keep.”

“They shouldn’t get invited back,” she said.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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Original Source: france24.com

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Top US Scientist Fauci: Omicron ‘almost Certainly Not More Severe’ Than Delta Variant

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Top US scientist Anthony Fauci said Tuesday that while it would take weeks to judge the severity of the new Covid-19 variant Omicron, early indications suggested it was not worse than prior strains, and possibly milder.Read More

Source: france24.com

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Suspected Member of Khashoggi Hit Squad Arrested at Paris Airport

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French police Tuesday arrested at Paris’s main airport a suspected member of the team that murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, sources said.Read More

Source Here: france24.com

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