The eight Turk­ish of­fi­cers and Greek jus­tice

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY NIKOS KONSTANDARAS

Greece does not of­ten have the chance to show the world the value of an in­de­pen­dent ju­di­ciary and of other demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions, the chance to honor the prin­ci­ples of Europe. But yes­ter­day, de­spite the dan­gers that this may bring upon the coun­try, the Supreme Court re­jected Turkey’s re­quest for the ex­tra­di­tion of eight mem­bers of the Turk­ish mil­i­tary whom Ankara ac­cuses of be­ing in­volved in the at­tempted coup of July 15. It was not an easy de­ci­sion, as the course of the is­sue had shown from the day af­ter the coup at­tempt, when the eight ar­rived in the north­ern town of Alexan­droupoli in a he­li­copter and re­quested asy­lum. But from the mo­ment that the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment’s cam­paign against real or per­ceived op­po­nents un­der­mined the Turk­ish ju­di­ciary’s in­de­pen­dence, the Greek judges had no real choice. Ex­tra­dit­ing the eight would have left an in­deli­ble stain on a na­tion that has only its pride and demo­cratic ideals left af­ter years of cri­sis, af­ter the gross de­val­u­a­tion of its name and prop­erty. As po­lit­i­cal op­por­tunism and ex­pe­di­ency sweep the world – in Greece and Bri­tain, in other Euro­pean coun­tries and the United States – the Greek judges’ ver­dict be­comes even more im­por­tant. It dis­plays the in­de­pen­dence and courage needed to for­tify democ­racy. Ev­ery­where. In Bri­tain, the judges who ruled that Brexit had to be de­bated in Par­lia­ment were branded “en­e­mies of the peo- ple” by sup­port­ers of Bri­tain’s exit from the EU. Don­ald Trump’s elec­tion has lead to an un­prece­dented at­tack on news me­dia that don’t see things as he does. We can only imag­ine how he will re­act to any ju­di­cial de­ci­sions that he does not like. Across the world, judges will be on the front line in the bat­tle be­tween jus­tice and chaos. When “might makes right” be­gins to dom­i­nate ev­ery­where, the Greek judges’ ver­dict is cause for re­spect as well as pride. The an­grier Ankara’s re­sponse, the more im­por­tant the ver­dict. It is im­per­a­tive that we press home sim­ple truths – that the is­sue is not whether we like or agree with those whom Turkey ac­cuses of trea­son but whether they would be granted a fair trial in their coun­try, whether their lives would be in dan­ger. Turkey’s ju­di­ciary is un­der the thumb of a gov­ern­ment that has said it in­tends to re­in­state the death penalty retroac­tively. The Greek judges car­ried out their obli­ga­tion to de­cide with­out con­sid­er­ing the po­lit­i­cal con­se­quences. Ex­tra­dit­ing the eight would have dam­aged not only the stand­ing of Greece’s ju­di­ciary but the very idea of jus­tice. It would have tainted all Greeks, whose myths, lit­er­a­ture and his­tory are a se­ries of brave de­ci­sions and of­ten des­per­ate acts against the “right” of the mighty. Yes­ter­day’s rul­ing may cause dam­age in the short term, but it is a breath of air and a mo­ment of pride on an end­less up­hill slog.

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