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Turkey Again Demands Greece Return Asylum Soldiers

January 9, 2018

ATHENS – With Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras seeking to yank asylum for one of eight Turkish soldiers who fled a failed coup attempt, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government has again demanded Greece send the men back although their lawyers said they face torture or worse.

The men landed in northern Greece in a helicopter after the failed coup in July, 2016 in which they said they took no part and are seeking asylum. Although Greece’s highest court ruled they can’t be extradited because they wouldn’t get a fair trial and their lives were in danger, critics said Tsipras wants to appease Erdogan to avoid the Turkish leader flooding Greek islands with more refugees and immigrants.

Greece’s ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition insisted the men won’t be extradited but didn’t explain what would happen if they didn’t get asylum. A Greek court has frozen asylum for the first soldier who was granted it while the others await their fate.

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said on Jan. 9 that he expects the extradition of all eight “as soon as possible,” after Erdogan, who earlier said Tsipras promised they would be swiftly returned, made the case again when visiting Athens in December, 2017.

Ignoring the ruling by Greece’s Supreme Court, and as some elements in SYRIZA are hinting the men were suspected of taking part in the coup despite their denial, Bozdag said that Greece was offering “support to coup plotters.”

“Those that participate in coups and escape to other countries must be returned,” he said, adding that Greece and Turkey have serious problems “like the ones in Aegean,” echoing the case made by Greek state lawyers that politics and relations with Turkey were more important than the soldiers’ lives.

Lawyers for the soldier given asylum said no evidence was presented that he had taken part in the coup and the asylum committee that Tsipras is seeking to set set aside agreed in its ruling.

The serviceman is to remain in custody until a final decision is issued on his asylum on Feb. 15, the Greek Police’s immigration unit told Kathimerini.

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