Turkish officers cry foul over failed asylum bids in Greece


Turkish military officers who fled to Greece following the failed July coup claimed Tuesday to be the victims of politics after Greek authorities turned down their initial requests for asylum.

“The asylum service has so far rejected in the first instance the request by seven members of the Turkish military,” their lawyer Stavroula Tomara told AFP.

“We are expecting the decision on the eighth next week,” added Tomara, who said a second hearing would follow for those whose asylum claims had been rejected.

In a statement, released by the lawyer, the eight Turkish officers claimed that the Greek asylum service’s decision “had not been taken with regard to international and European law, but was dictated by bilateral politics”.

The eight said they “came to Greece to save our lives”.

The Turkish asylum seekers have insisted their lives are in danger despite denying any role in the failed coup.

The two commanders, four captains and two sergeants requested asylum in Greece after landing a military helicopter in the northern city of Alexandroupoli shortly after the attempted government takeover in mid-July.

Soon after they arrived, a Greek court sentenced the eight — who face a military trial in their homeland if sent back — to suspended two-month prison terms for illegal entry.

The eight claim they will not receive a fair trial in Turkey, where the authorities have detained thousands of people over the coup, including top generals.

They will remain in police custody in Greece until their asylum applications are heard.

Rights group Amnesty International has said it has “credible evidence” of the abuse and torture of people detained in sweeping post-coup arrests — something Ankara has denied.

In their statement on Tuesday the Turkish officers complained that while they are not considered to be terrorists at home “we are considered terrorists by a Greek public service which is depriving us of international protection”.

Ankara has called on Athens to extradite them all, but that request will only be considered by Greek justice once the asylum issue is definitively decided, according to a Greek judicial source.

The case threatens to strain ties between the uneasy NATO allies.

Numerous Turkish army personnel and civil servants fled Turkey following the coup attempt, fearing arrest after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched a purge against the putschists.

Turkey has suspended more than 500 military personnel, mostly officers, from the air force and navy for suspected ties to the US-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen who is blamed for the failed coup, Turkish media reported last week.

© 2016 AFP

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