Gripping MİT spy story turns out more prosaic

Media reports that Greek and Turkish intelligence services pulled guns on one another in Athens are far from the truth, Greek-Australian columnist Apostolos Doxiadis wrote on the Greek website Mononews.

The Greek weekly Proto Thema newspaper had said agents from Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MİT) had been tasked with finding Captain Süleyman Özkaynakçı, who had escaped the country on a military helicopter in the wake of the 2016 failed coup and had just had his asylum application accepted and been released from Greek custody.

Greece’s National Intelligence Agency (EYP) had been tasked with protecting Özkaynakçı from any external threat, it said.

“MİT and EYP agents came face to face at one time,” the newspaper said. “They even drew their weapons. The tension was reduced by the intervention of those with cooler heads.”

The report was picked up by secular newspaper Hürriyet and other Turkish media outlets. But the story was deleted from the Proto Thema website after it turned out to be too exciting to be true.

Doxiadis said the story originated with high-level gossip leaked from various government officials.

But, he said, it was a “completely false and extremely dangerous lie”.

According to the original Proto Thema article, The event was an important factor in the Greek government choosing to temporarily suspend Özkaynakçı’s asylum on Jan. 8, Proto Thema said.

Doxiadis, however, said that it was extremely unlikely that the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan would want to provoke an international incident through this kidnapping, and added several things about the story that were incorrect in all versions.

Özkaynakçı was not kept in a safe house, Doxiadis said, but stayed with friends who did not even have a burglar alarm.

There were no tense moments between Greek and Turkish spies, even if it was not impossible that MİT were trying to keep an eye on him, Doxiadis said.

Finally, reports that Özkaynakçı had voluntarily returned to jail for his own safety were false; it was only after Turkey put pressure on Greece to rescind his asylum application that he was detained again, he said.