Greece moves to cancel Turkish soldier's asylum

A Turkish officer who fled Turkey after a failed 2016 coup has been granted asylum in Greece, despite extradition calls.

    Eight Turkish soldiers requested asylum in Greece after a failed 2016 coup [Reuters]
    Eight Turkish soldiers requested asylum in Greece after a failed 2016 coup [Reuters]

    Greece's government has filed a request to cancel the granting of asylum to one of eight Turkish soldiers who fled their country during last year's failed coup attempt.

    The move on Saturday came hours after a Greek administrative committee ruled in favour of the man's appeal against his earlier application for asylum.

    The committee's ruling angered neighbouring Turkey, which has repeatedly called for the soldiers' extradition, accusing them of having a hand in the putsch bid.

    In a statement, Turkey's ministry of foreign affairs called the decision politically motivated and warned that it would affect ties between the two countries.

    "Greece failed to show the support and cooperation we expect from an ally in the fight against terrorism by preventing criminals who took part in killing hundreds of Turkish people and targeting the democratic order," the statement said, according to a translation in Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah.

    Later on Saturday, the Greek government said that it had filed an appeal against the decision by the administrative committee for asylum requests.

    Athens said in a statement that its move was in line with "its standing position regarding the eight soldiers, as it has been repeatedly and publicly expressed". 

    Greece's administrative court of appeal will now look into the case.

    Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has previously said his country does not support coup plotters and that its justice system is independent.

    The decision on Saturday was not taken by a judicial committee, but an administrative one. It is comprised by two administrative judges of the Greek justice and one representative of the UN's refugee agency, according to Stavroula Tomara, one of the soldiers' lawyers in Greece.

    The eight soldiers fled Turkey in a military helicopter and landed in the Greek northeast town of Alexandroupolis during the failed coup on July 15, 2016.

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    The attempted coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government left more than 240 people dead.

    In its ruling on Saturday, the Greek asylum committee ruled that there was no evidence to prove the officer had participated in the attempted putsch, media in Greece reported.

    The tribunal is still considering the cases of the other seven fugitive soldiers.

    Tomara, the lawyer, welcomed "the excellent, unbiased, impartial Greek judges for their courage and their [bravery] to take such a decision without being driven by any political interests".

    Speaking to Al Jazeera from Athens, Tomara said "the grounds for this decision [is] that the soldiers have not participated in any kind of coup".

    She said she expected the other seven soldiers to be granted asylum in their cases, as well, which are still pending.

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    Turkey has repeatedly called on Greece to extradite the officers, but the country's Supreme Court rejected Ankara's extradition request in January.

    Up until now, the Greek government had said it could not intervene in the case and must respect the will of the judiciary. 

    The issue has led to increased tension between Athens and Ankara.

    Erdogan himself made a request for the officers' extradition earlier this month during a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

    The Turkish government has accused Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Muslim cleric, of orchestrating the coup. Gulen denies the charges.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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