Eight Turkish soldiers seeking asylum in Greece after fleeing a failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July, 2016 in which they denied taking part, are being protected by an 80-man squad of police after being released from detention, a Greek newspaper said.
The men were released from a maximum 180-day detention period but Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is opposing asylum for them although it has already been granted to one so far.
Erdogan wants them back and said that two Greek soldiers being held in Turkey after accidentally crossing the border while on patrol during bad weather on March 1 were hostages and bargaining chips to force return of the Turkish servicemen.
With Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag saying his country would go so far as to kidnap them from Greece, the soldiers are in a military barracks under the heavy protection, the newspaper Ta Nea said, surrounded by the police. It wasn’t explained why the military wasn’t guarding them.
The extra security came after Bozdag said, “It is our duty to bring these putschists to Turkey wherever they are,” alarming the Greek government.
Even some ministers and others in Tsipras’ Radical Left SYRIZA said the men are guilty without any proof being offered and he has tried to appease Erdogan, reportedly fearful the Turkish strongman will flood Greek islands with more refugees and migrants.
There is precedent for Turkey going after targets protected by Greece. Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan was captured in Kenya in 1999 while being transferred from the Greek Embassy to to the airport in Nairobi, in an operation by Turkey’s intelligence service, reportedly with the help of the CIA.
George Costoulas, the Greek consul who protected him, said that his life was in danger after the operation, it was reported and a top Turkish intelligence agent said the US helped because Ocalan was hurting American aspirations of creating a separate Kurdish state.
His capture led thousands of Kurds to protest at Greek and Israeli embassies around the world to no avail and he’s still being held prisoner after a death sentence was removed when Turkey ended capital punishment as part of a bid to join the European Union.
The eight Turkish soldiers are accused by Turkish authorities of involvement in the coup and being members of the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) led by a Turkish cleric now living in Pennsylvania.
In January, the Greek Supreme Court ruled against extraditing the former soldiers — a move Turkey called “politically motivated,” although the court said their lives would be in danger as Erdogan has purged civil society and the military.