Turk officers seek asylum
Athens will ‘swiftly’ examine requests, as Ankara eyes extradition over failed coup
Greek authorities said over the weekend that they would consider the asylum requests of eight Turkish military officers who fled Turkey on Saturday aboard a helicopter after the failure of an attempted coup in the neighboring country but indicated that the officers’ alleged involvement in the coup was a serious concern.
The officers faced a prosecutor in Alexandroupoli, northern Greece, yesterday on charges of illegally crossing into the country and violating Greek air space. They are due in court today, though they are expected to request an extension to prepare their defense. Their appearance came a day after they landed at Alexandroupoli airport after issuing a distress signal.
Late on Saturday, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan by phone that the asylum requests of the Turkish soldiers would be examined “swiftly” but with “absolute respect” for international law and human rights treaties.
Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias told his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu that it would be “taken very seriously in mind that the arrested parties stand accused in their country of violating constitutional legality and attempting to overthrow democracy.”
Deputy Defense Minister Dimitris Vitsas said yesterday that Turkey’s argument for the extradition of the eight Turkish officers was “very strong” in view of the constitutional violation.
Ilia Marinaki, the lawyer representing four of the Turkish soldiers, told Skai TV that the men were following orders to transport injured people from the streets of Istanbul via helicopter. While doing so, they came under fire by police, Marinaki said, adding, “they did not know there was a coup and were not involved in it.” According to the lawyer, the officers fear for their lives and those of their families.
A unit of Turkish air force officers landed in Alexandroupoli on Saturday night aboard a military aircraft to collect the Black Hawk helicopter. Both helicopters returned to Istanbul late on Saturday.