Tsipras refuses to extradite Turkish soldiers accused of coup plotting

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Prime Minister of Turkey Binali Yıldırım (L)speaks with Prime Minister of Greece Alexis Tsipras (R) during their meeting, in Athens, Greece on June 19, 2017. Hakan Göktepe / Anadolu Agency

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has rejected a Turkish demand for the extradition of eight Turkish officers who are accused of taking part in a failed coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016 and are currently seeking asylum in Greece.

“The judiciary and the executive body work independently. We have to respect court decisions even if we do not agree with them. Greek courts made a decision. We have to respect it,” said Tsipras during a joint press conference with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım in Athens on Monday.

A Greek court ruled against the extradition of eight Turkish soldiers,  three majors, three captains and two sergeants-major who landed a helicopter in Greece on July 16 and sought asylum, saying they feared for their lives in Turkey.

“We respect the decision of the court. We want that this situation not to deal a blow to the relations between Turkey and Greece,” said Yıldırım in response to Tsipras.

However, Athens has recently been at the center of criticism for returning Turkish asylum seekers to Turkey.

On June 7, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks expressed concern about reported collective expulsions from Greece of asylum-seeking Turkish nationals, urging Greek authorities to immediately cease the pushback operations.

“I am very concerned about reported collective expulsions from Greece of asylum seeking Turkish nationals. Allegedly, Greek security forces have summarily returned to Turkey several people, including one journalist, in recent days, thus preventing them from seeking and enjoying asylum,” said Muiznieks in a statement he shared on social media.

“I urge the Greek authorities to cease immediately the pushback operations and uphold their human rights obligation to ensure that all people reaching Greece can effectively seek and enjoy asylum.”

A group of people who were detained at the beginning of June by Turkish gendarmes said they were sent back to Turkey after they crossed the river to Greece, the second such recent incident after journalist Murat Çapan, who had been sentenced to 22.5 years for two news stories, and others were returned home by Greece last month.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) reported that unofficial refoulement from Greece to Turkey took place on the Maritza River on May 24.

Turkey survived a military coup attempt on July 15 that killed over 240 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

According to a report by the state-run Anadolu news agency on May 28, 154,694 individuals have been detained and 50,136 have been jailed due to alleged Gülen links since the failed coup attempt.

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