Greek court blocks 2nd extradition request for Turkish officers

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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 court on Thursday blocked a second extradition request by Turkey for the final two of eight soldiers who fled to Greece in July following a failed coup attempt, court officials said.

The decision is likely to anger Ankara, which alleges the men were involved in efforts to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and has repeatedly demanded they be sent back.

Turkey had issued a second extradition request for the men, which it has branded traitors, in January after Greece’s top court ruled against extraditing all eight.

The drawn-out case has highlighted often strained relations between Greece and Turkey, NATO allies which remain at odds over issues from territorial disputes to ethnically split Cyprus.

Turkey has previously threatened measures including scrapping a bilateral migration deal with Greece if the men are not returned.

The three majors, three captains and two sergeant-majors landed a helicopter in Greece on July 16 and sought asylum, saying they feared for their lives in Turkey, where authorities have purged large numbers from the military and civil service.

They are to be held in detention until their asylum applications are processed.

Addressing the court on Thursday, the prosecutor acknowledged the ruling “may cause discomfort” in Turkey but said the reasons for the rejection had not changed since January.

“Has the torture stopped? The persecution?” he asked. “If it looks itself in the mirror, modern Turkey will understand why one denial comes after another — not only from Greece but also from other countries — for the release of alleged coup plotters.”

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