Two members of the Turkish army out of eight who fled to Greece in a helicopter after a failed coup attempt on July 15 in Turkey renewed their request for political asylum since Greece rejected their applications on Sept. 21.
Stavroula Tomara, the lawyer representing the two officers, told reporters in Athens on Monday that the asylum investigation process will begin again once the applications are accepted.
The soldiers, who deny any involvement in the attempt to topple President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Turkish government, landed in Alexandroupoli in a Turkish army helicopter four days after the putsch.
“We came here to Greece, to Europe, to save our lives,” said one of the eight who declined to be named for fear of reprisals against family members still in Turkey. “We aren’t criminals. We shouldn’t be treated as criminals,” he said in an interview with the UK’s The Times Magazine on Sept. 21.
Turkey’s government has requested the rapid extradition of the men it has described as “traitors” to face charges of trying to overthrow the democratic constitution. Athens initially appeared keen to extradite them quickly, but enthusiasm has waned since the launching of a purge of thousands of military members and civil servants to root out “traitors.”
The officers also denied allegations of taking an active part in the July 15 coup attempt, insisting that they had no prior knowledge and that they were merely following orders to pick up military personnel in Istanbul.
“We were ordered to fly to a location in İstanbul and help pick up some injured soldiers,” said the second officer interviewed by The Times. “But once we arrived, we came under heavy police fire. We were all unarmed and without bulletproof vests. We didn’t know what was happening until we landed at a safe location in the woods and took out an iPad to check the news.
“Once we realized what was happening,” he said, “our escape became a matter of life or death.”
It is not immediately clear when the rulings on the other asylum seekers will be delivered by Greek authorities.