Greek court rejects Turkey’s request for extradition of eight 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. 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

A Greek appeals court on Friday rejected a Turkish demand for the handover of eight Turkish soldiers accused by Ankara of having played a direct role in a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016, Reuters reported.

According to the report, the court said it had concerns the eight would not face a fair trial in Turkey, returning Ankara’s third demand for extradition.

The decision came days after a court in Turkey’s northwestern province of Edirne ordered the arrest of two Greek soldiers who the Greek army claimed “accidentally” crossed onto the Turkish side of the border.

Turkish prosecutors demanded their arrest for military espionage and trespassing in a prohibited military zone.

Lt. Aggelos Mitredotis and noncommissioned officer Dimitros Kouklatzis were detained by Turkish troops patrolling the border late on March 1.

In January, Turkey expressed anger over a verdict from the Greek Supreme Court denying the extradition of eight soldiers. Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Turkey would take necessary steps, including the possible cancellation of a readmission agreement with Greece. The agreement is not bilateral as it was signed between Turkey and the European Union.

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 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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