Greek prosecutor argues against extradition of Turkish soldiers

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A Turkish officer covers his face as he is escorted by a Greek police officer to the courthouse of Alexandroupoli on July 21, 2016, during the trial of eight Turkish military officers who fled to Greece by helicopter after last week's failed coup attempt. Eight Turkish military officers who fled to Greece after last week's failed coup went on trial on July 21 for illegal entry in a case that threatens to strain ties between the NATO allies. The eight are being tried in the northern city of Alexandroupoli, where they arrived by military helicopter on Saturday after sending a distress signal to authorities. / AFP PHOTO / SAKIS MITROLIDIS

A Greek prosecutor argued on Wednesday against the extradition of two Turkish soldiers who fled to Greece in July after a failed coup attempt in Turkey, in a case which has highlighted strained relations between Athens and Ankara, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

The two men are among a group of eight soldiers who landed in a helicopter in northern Greece on July 16 and sought political asylum, saying they feared for their lives in Turkey.

Turkey has demanded Greece extradite all eight, alleging they were involved in the coup attempt and has branded them traitors. They all deny involvement in the attempt to oust President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which has led to a purge of the military and civil service.

A Greek court ruled last month that three soldiers should be extradited to Turkey, but they appealed the verdict. Other courts ruled that the remaining five should not be extradited, but those rulings were contested as well by a chief prosecutor. The appeals were brought before the Supreme Court.

During Wednesday’s hearing at the Supreme Court, the state prosecutor urged the judges “not to stick to legal documents and pretend that nothing is happening in Turkey.”

“We cannot just say ‘I wash my hands of you; take them’,” the prosecutor said. “Even just the possibility that their rights will be violated is a reason against their extradition.”

It was the second hearing this week in the case. On Monday another state prosecutor argued that two more soldiers should not be extradited. Another hearing is scheduled for Friday.

The verdicts are expected on Jan. 23. If the Supreme Court rules that the soldiers must face trial in Turkey, their asylum applications in Greece will be overridden and they will be sent back.

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