ATHENS – Greece’s highest administrative court, the Council of Appeals, has taken up a petition from Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to yank asylum for a Turkish soldier who is one of eight seeking refuge after fleeing an attempted coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in which they said they took no part.
Tsipras, who critics said wants to appease Erdogan and keep the Turkish leader from sending more refugees and migrants to Greek islands, has denied he wants to send the soldiers back despite some ministers in his ruling Radical Left SYRIZA saying they are likely guilty and should be returned, or even tried in Greece, where they haven’t committed any crimes.
The one soldier who was granted asylum was immediately detained, leading to speculation the government was paving the way for all eight to be sent back despite a Greek court ruling that they couldn’t be extradited because their lives would be in danger in Turkey, where Erdogan, who got near-dictatorial powers after the coup, said he wants the death penalty put back in force.
The men fled Turkey in a helicopter and landed in northern Greece and immediately sought asylum, infuriating Erdogan who said Tsipras promised home they would be swiftly returned before the Greek court barred extradition.
While Tsipras wants the asylum reversed, the business newspaper Naftemporiki said the petition was signed by Migration Policy Minister Yannis Mouzalas, who has refused to allow the mass transfer of 15,000 refugees and migrants on Greek islands to the mainland, saying that would break a European Union swap deal with Turkey he admitted isn’t working.