May 23 2018

Greek court issues final decision to grant asylum in one of eight Turkish soldiers

The Greek Council of State has made a final decision to grant asylum to one of eight Turkish soldiers who fled to the country after the failed 2016 coup attempt in Turkey, Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported on Wednesday. 

According to Kathimerini's sources, "judges at Greece's highest administrative court upheld the Turkish officer's asylum request in a decision that is expected to influence the course of the other seven servicemen's applications."

The men claimed asylum after they were arrested for illegally entering Greece. Turkey has demanded the men are sent back to face trial for taking part in the July 2016 coup attempt, which it blames on the Islamist Gülen movement.

So far, three requests to have the soldiers extradited have been turned down while Greece evaluates their asylum claims.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and other senior officials have slammed Greek leaders in recent weeks for failing to extradite the soldiers. 

Greece's hıghest judicial authority, the Supreme Court, has already rejected Turkey's extradition requests. 

Greece has become a “haven” for coup plotters after resisting Turkish demands for the extradition of eight Turkish servicemen from Greece, Greek newspaper Kathimerini quoted Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım as saying in early April.

Last month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he might consider extraditing two Greek soldiers arrested in Turkey if Greece returned the eight coup suspects. 

The pair, Sgt Dimitris Kouklatzis, 27, and Lt Angelos Mitretodis, 25, were arrested at the beginning of March after reportedly being found in a “forbidden military zone” in Turkish territory. The soldiers say they strayed across the border after becoming lost in bad weather.

The two soldiers have been charged with espionage, and their detention is ongoing after a Turkish court rejected their release applications for a third time on Tuesday.