ATHENS – An administrative Greek court was expected to rule Jan. 16 whether the arrest and detention of a Turkish soldier seeking asylum after fleeing a failed coup was legal, as the government pressed its case that none of the eight who came to Greece should be given sanctuary.
The soldiers came to Greece in July, 2016 after the coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan failed and said they fled for their lives and had taken no part in it but feared retaliation.
Erdogan has since purged the military and called for the death penalty and has continually demanded Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras have the men extradited although Greece’s highest court ruled against it, saying the men would not receive a fair trial.
One has already been given asylum after his lawyers said he and the others faced torture or worse if returned but Tsipras, in what critics said was a shameless backdown to Erdogan, wants the asylum revoked, although denying they would be returned.
Greek Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis though offered to have them tried in Greece, where they have not committed any crimes, in what was seen as another attempt to appease the hardline Erdogan, who has gained near-dictatorial powers and came to Athens in December to meet Tsipras and make more demands.
Greek Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas said they’re likely guilty and should be shipped back even though the asylum committee said there’s no evidence they took part in the coup and that Turkey hadn’t offered any beyond Erdogan’s declaration.
“There are sound indications that they took part in the coup,” Mouzalas said in an interview with SKAI TV, without saying what they were. “In our view, this creates – this is a known fact – a problem with the neighboring country… We are a rule of law state, we shall pursue the legal path,” he added. “It is up to the courts to decide.”
As have others within SYRIZA, he indicated that it’s more critical for Greece to keep Erdogan happy than for the men to be granted asylum and a safe haven
Lawyers for them proposed they be kept under house arrest, to fulfill a demand by authorities concerned about security, Kathimerini said.
Last week, the court temporarily froze a decision to grant asylum to the serviceman, upholding an appeal by the Greek state to suspend the committee’s decision.
Rival political parties and critics, noting his history of reneging on virtually every vow he’s made, said Tsipras is paving the way for them to be sent back to appease Erdogan, charging the Premier is afraid more refugees and migrants will be unleashed on Greek islands.
Lawyers for the Greek government said not returning the men would damage relations between the countries, suggesting politics is more important than their lives.