Turkey planned to bring back 8 fugitive soldiers from Greece after coup attempt

The Turkish military contacted Greek authorities to bring back eight Turkish servicemen who fled to Greece following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, the Nordic Monitor reported citing secret documents.

Greece granted asylum to the eight soldiers in 2018, despite Turkey’s attempts to ensure their extradition over their role in the coup attempt, which Ankara blames on the Islamist Gülen movement.

The documents obtained by the Nordic Monitor show that the Turkish General Staff transmitted orders to land and air forces the day after the failed putsch, ordering them to execute a plan to bring back the eight soldiers and the helicopter they used when fleeing Turkey. 

Turkey also made contact with Greek authorities who agreed to return the soldiers. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Twitter the same day that then-Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias assured him on the phone that Greece would return the eight soldiers as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, the Greek police filed a report with Interpol stating that the eight servicemen had been taken into custody earlier on July 16, adding that the soldiers had expressed their intention to seek asylum in Greece. The high priority Interpol note was shared with Turkey’s Interpol unit and forwarded to the Turkish military, the Nordic Monitor said. 

Turkey’s plan to bring back eight soldiers seems to have failed after the Greek law enforcement registered the asylum applications with Interpol and the Greek judiciary stepped in to assess the applications, the news site said. 

The Turkish government started a crackdown against the Gülen movement soon after the coup attempt. More than 150,000 people, including thousands of military officials, have been fired or suspended from their jobs, while tens of thousands of suspected Gülen devotees have fled abroad.

The movement led by U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen denies any involvement in the failed putsch.