Greek court suspends asylum granted to Turkish soldier

A Greek court on Monday suspended the asylum status granted to a former Turkish soldier, who is accused by the Turkish government of plotting the July 15, 2016 coup attempt along with seven others, and detained him, saying it will make a final decision on the fugitive on Feb. 15.

An appeals court in Athens upheld a request by the Greek government to suspend the decision made by an independent asylum council on Dec. 29, 2017. The Greek government has said the issue, which threatens already tense relations with Turkey, is politically too important to be adjudicated by an administrative body.

According to a report by Reuters, the court said it was granting the order ‘for reasons of public interest’ until a formal court hearing on the asylum board’s decision scheduled for Feb. 15. It also asked authorities to refrain from taking any action which could precipitate the individual leaving Greece. The man was detained by authorities on Monday.

Turkey has demanded the extradition of the soldiers, which it has branded as “traitors.” Greece has made clear it does not want the soldiers in the country; government officials have said that individuals suspected of any involvement in the coup are not welcome.

Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras of reneging on a promise to have the soldiers sent back within days of them fleeing to Greece. Greece disputes that account, saying the issue is up to courts.

But since then, Greek courts have ruled out the extradition of the eight to Turkey. Turkey accuses Greece of harbouring coupists, Greece denies it and says its judiciary is independent.

Last week Greece’s justice minister said Athens was exploring whether the soldiers could be tried in Greece. The two countries have signed agreements on criminal acts such as terrorism and the penal code may apply to both Greeks and foreigners in that case, regardless of where any crimes were committed.

The soldiers are not accused of anything by Greece. The eight men – three majors, three captains and two sergeant majors – flew to Greece by helicopter on July 16, 2016, as the coup attempt against Erdoğan crumbled. They have denied any involvement and said they feared for their lives.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempton 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. Turkey’s Interior Minister had announced on December 12, 2017 that 55,665  people have been arrested. 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.

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