Greek court releases Turkish officer allegedly involved in 2016 coup attempt

A Greek court on Thursday released one out of eight Turkish military officers who have sought asylum in Greece after alleged involvement in a controversial military coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016.

According to Turkish pro-gov’t media reports, military officer Süleyman Özkaynakçı was released by Greece’s highest court while imposing strict restrictions on Özkaynakçı’s movements while he awaits a decision on his asylum application.

The Greek Council of State ruled that the Turkish officer will remain at an undisclosed location, must appear daily at a local police station and cannot obtain travel documents until his asylum application is adjudicated in May. Greek courts had initially granted him asylum but suspended the decision following a Greek government appeal.

After the coup bid in 2016, eight soldiers, including two commanders, four captains and two sergeants, escaped to Greece on a Sikorsky helicopter and landed in Alexandroupolis, after which they requested asylum from Greek authorities. Before their asylum request was taken up, a Greek court sentenced the eight men to a suspended two-month jail sentence for illegal entry into Greece.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. Previously, on December 13, 2017, The Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup. Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018 that the Turkish government jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016 and April 11, 2018 over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

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