A Greek committee on Thursday granted asylum to a Turkish soldier who fled to Greece with seven other officers after a coup attempt against Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan in 2016, judicial sources said.
The name of the Turkish officer who has been granted asylum is Uğur Uçan, a former Turkish captain, according to Turkey’s Anadolu news agency.
The decision is expected to anger Ankara, which accuses the fugitives of involvement in the abortive coup and wants them all handed over. It says Athens is harboring “coupists.” The soldiers deny any wrongdoing and say they fear for their lives.
“This is the third officer to be granted asylum [by the committee],” said one of the lawyers working on the case to Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Former captain Süleyman Özkaynakçı and former major Ahmet Güzel were earlier granted asylum by Greece.
The Greek government was not immediately available for comment. Anxious to avoid further harming ties with Ankara, it appealed against the committee’s decision to grant asylum to the other two soldiers earlier this year, but a top court rejected its request. It is unclear whether it will appeal again.
The asylum committee is an independent administrative body.
The case has soured ties between Greece and Turkey, NATO allies that came close to war as recently as 1996 and which have also seen renewed diplomatic strains over natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean and Europe’s migrant crisis.
The eight soldiers have been released from prison and have been transferred to a guarded location. The remaining five soldiers are still awaiting a decision on their asylum applications.
In rejecting Ankara’s extradition requests, the Greek courts said they were not convinced that the eight would receive a fair trial in Turkey. Athens says the independence of the judiciary should be respected.
Last month, Turkey suspended its bilateral migrant readmission deal with Greece over the issue.
Separately, Turkish courts have rejected Greek requests for the release of two border guards, who were detained after crossing the frontier in poor weather on March 1.