[UPDATE] Turkey slams Greek decision to grant asylum to soldier

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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. The case involves eight Turkish military officers who arrived in the northern Greek city of Alexandroupolis on the same helicopter in July 16, 2017, a day after a botched coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Since the coup, many Turkish military officers have requested asylum in other NATO countries. / AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINIS

The Turkish Foreign Ministry on Saturday condemned a decision on the part of Greece to grant asylum to one of eight Turkish soldiers who fled Turkey after a failed coup in July 2016, local media reported.

The statement said the decision was politically motivated and would negatively impact bilateral relations.

“Greece failed to show the support and cooperation we expect from an ally in the fight against terrorism by [sheltering] criminals who took part in killing hundreds of Turks and targeting the democratic order,” the statement said.

Greek authorities earlier in the day had approved a request for asylum for a Turkish soldier who along with seven others fled Turkey for Greece after a failed coup in July 2016, local media reported.

Süleyman Özkaynakçı, the copilot of the helicopter used in the escape, was reportedly granted asylum and released by a ruling of the 3rd Independent Secondary Asylum Committee, while the other seven remain in custody.

Greece has several times rejected Turkey’s requests for extradition of the soldiers.

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

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government accuse the faith-based Gülen movement of masterminding the failed coup on July 15, 2016.

Despite the movement strongly denying involvement in the putsch, Erdoğan launched a witch-hunt targeting it.

Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Dec. 12 that 55,665 people had been jailed and 234,419 passports revoked as part of investigations into the Gülen movement since the failed coup attempt last July.

Soylu on Nov. 16 had said 48,739 people had been jailed and eight holdings and 1,020 companies seized as part of operations against the movement.

The Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15, 2016 through government decrees issued as part of an ongoing state of emergency.

Amid the crackdown, many people attempted illegal entry into Greece, with some arrested near the border and, on some occasions, drowning in the Evros River, the border between the two countries.

The president earlier this month had called on people to show no mercy to the movement: “I am calling on those who are part of this structure [Gülen movement]. Will you still not leave it? I am saying this clearly: if you are pitiful, you will be pitied. There are thousands in prison.”

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