TURKEY

Greek Supreme Court denies extradition of Turkish soldiers who fled in helicopter after coup attempt

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 January, 2017, 11:25pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 January, 2017, 11:25pm

Greece’s Supreme Court ruled against the extradition of eight Turkish soldiers who fled to Greece in July after a failed coup attempt in Turkey, a decision which is likely to anger Ankara.

Turkey has demanded Greece extradite them, alleging they were involved in the coup attempt and has branded them traitors.

The men – three majors, three captains and two sergeant-majors – landed a helicopter in northern Greece on July 16 and sought political asylum saying they feared for their lives in Turkey. They deny playing a role in the attempt to oust President Tayyip Erdogan, which led to a purge of the military and civil service.

“The possibility of their rights being violated or reduced regardless of the degree of guilt or the gravity of the crimes they are accused of does not allow the implementation of extradition rules,” a Supreme Court president said.

The court ruled that the soldiers, who have been kept in protective custody pending final decisions on their asylum applications, must be freed. The rulings cannot be overturned.

Their lawyer Christos Mylonopoulos said the verdict was “a big victory for European values”.

The soldiers have been accused in Turkey of attempting to abrogate the constitution, attempting to dissolve parliament and seizing a helicopter using violence and for attempting to assassinate Erdogan.

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The case has highlighted the sometimes strained relations between Greece and Turkey, neighbours and Nato allies at odds over a series of issues ranging from the divided island of Cyprus to air fights over the Aegean Sea. The two countries play an important role in the handling of Europe’s worst migration crisis in decades and the EU depends on Ankara to enforce a deal to stem mass migration to Europe.