Top Greek court confirms Turkish soldier’s right to asylum

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Fugitive Turkish soldiers arrive at Supreme Court of Greece, "Areios Pagos", in Athens, Greece on January 26, 2017. Greece will not extradite any of the eight Turkish soldiers allegedly involved in the July coup attempt, Supreme Court judges said on Thursday. AFP PHOTO

Greece’s Council of State has rejected the Greek government’s objection to an earlier ruling that granted the right of asylum to a Turkish soldier, one of eight military members who were accused by Turkey of participating in a 2016 coup attempt, drawing the ire of Ankara, the Hürriyet Daily News reported.

The court’s decision is “against the obligations of Greece on international treaties for [the] fight against terrorism and violates [the] 1951 Geneva Convention Relating [to] the Status of Refugees,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Greece several times rejected the extradition of these traitors and laid the grounds for these kinds of [decisions] that [hurt] the conscience of [the] Turkish nation,” the ministry added, while calling on Greek authorities not to allow the country to be a “safe harbor for coup plotters.”

Presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın also slammed the ruling as “scandalous” while calling on “all parties including the European Union to reject and condemn it.”

“Judicial decisions that defend the putschists mean support for the putsch. The Greek judiciary has sided with the enemies of Turkey and putschists with this decision,” Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) spokesman Ömer Çelik said in a separate statement.

The eight former Turkish soldiers – including commissioned and noncommissioned officers — flew to Greece by helicopter on July 16, 2016 as the coup attempt crumbled.

Ankara says the eight soldiers were members of the faith-based Gülen movement, which the Turkish government accuses of orchestrating the failed coup, an allegation strongly denied by the movement.

The Greek Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, last year approved the asylum request of Süleyman Özkaynakçı, the co-pilot of the helicopter that was used to flee Turkey.

Despite the Greek government’s objection, the top court released Özkaynakçı from detention on April 19.

Local media reported on Wednesday that the Greek government’s final appeal was rejected by the Council of State, which confirmed the ex-soldiers’ right to asylum.

Due to what the court described as a lack of evidence, Özkaynakçı can now be issued a travel document under the ruling, which constitutes a legal precedent, the reports said.

Greece has repeatedly rejected Turkey’s extradition requests for the eight soldiers.

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