Greece says courts independent as Turkey angered by refusal to extradite soldiers

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Turkish officers are escorted by Greek special police forces as they leave the Greek Supreme Court in Athens, after a hearing concerning a possible extradition of the officers over July's failed coup in Turkey, on January 23, 2017 in Athens. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINIS

After Turkey expressed anger over a verdict from the Greek Supreme Court on Thursday denying the extradition of eight servicemen who were allegedly involved in an attempted coup in Turkey last July, the Greek Prime Ministry issued a statement on Friday saying that the courts in Greece are independent and their verdicts binding.

Turkish media reported the statement underlining the rule of law in Greece shortly after Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Turkey would take necessary steps, including the possible cancellation of a readmission agreement with Greece.

Çavuşoğlu’s statement came a day after the Greek verdict as Turkey issued arrest warrants for the eight fugitive soldiers in their absence and requested their extradition from Greece for a second time.

Çavuşoğlu claimed that with the verdict denying the extradition request for the soldiers, Greece has turned into a country that protects putschists.

Although Çavuşoğlu challenged the Greek decision by suggesting cancellation of the readmission agreement, the agreement is not bilateral as it was signed between Turkey and the European Union.

Turkey’s Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ also slammed Greece and said the decision was unacceptable under any legal reasoning.

The deal signed in December 2013 basically requires Turkey to take refugees back who crossed to Greece and hence Europe illegally in return for visa-free travel for Turks if Turkey fulfills 72 requirements set by the EU.

The Greek Supreme Court handed down its verdict on an extradition request for eight Turkish soldiers who fled to Greece after a failed coup in Turkey and denied their return on Thursday.

The court cited the lack of ability to get a fair trial in Turkey as justification for denying the request for the extradition of the soldiers. Turkish news channels portrayed the decision as a negative development.

The soldiers are expected to be released in Greece soon as they officially seek asylum there.

On Dec. 8, a Greek appeals court had overturned a decision to extradite the last two of eight Turkish soldiers who fled to Greece in the aftermath of the failed coup on July 15.

On Dec. 6, another Greek court had ruled to extradite three soldiers who were allegedly involved in the coup attempt.

The court ruled that the three pilots should be returned to Turkey to stand trial for three of the four crimes they are accused of, but not for attempting to kill President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, lawyer Stavroula Tomara told Reuters.

The pilots had appealed the ruling at the country’s top court, she added.

The soldiers reportedly said they would be subject to the death penalty in Turkey if they were extradited since President Erdoğan has been planning to reinstate capital punishment.

The soldiers deny any part in the putsch as alleged by Turkey. In an interview with The Times in September, the soldiers described themselves as Kemalists who are against any Islamic control within the military.

However, the Turkish government claims that the fugitive soldiers are linked to the Gülen movement.

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