Greek PM Tsipras refuses to extradite Turkish soldiers accused of coup plotting

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has rejected a Turkish demand for the extradition of eight Turkish officers who are accused of taking part in a failed coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016 and are currently seeking asylum in Greece.

“The judiciary and the executive body work independently. We have to respect court decisions even if we do not agree with them. Greek courts made a decision. We have to respect it,” said Tsipras during a joint press conference with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım in Athens on Monday.

A Greek court ruled against the extradition of eight Turkish soldiers,  three majors, three captains and two sergeants-major who landed a helicopter in Greece on July 16, 2016 and sought asylum, saying they feared for their lives in Turkey.

“We respect the decision of the court. We want that this situation not to deal a blow to the relations between Turkey and Greece,” said Yıldırım in response to Tsipras.

However, Athens has recently been at the center of criticism for returning Turkish asylum seekers to Turkey.

On June 7, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks expressed concern about reported collective expulsions from Greece of asylum-seeking Turkish nationals, urging Greek authorities to immediately cease the pushback operations.

“I am very concerned about reported collective expulsions from Greece of asylum seeking Turkish nationals. Allegedly, Greek security forces have summarily returned to Turkey several people, including one journalist, in recent days, thus preventing them from seeking and enjoying asylum,” said Muiznieks in a statement he shared on social media.

“I urge the Greek authorities to cease immediately the pushback operations and uphold their human rights obligation to ensure that all people reaching Greece can effectively seek and enjoy asylum.”

A group of people who were detained at the beginning of June by Turkish gendarmes said they were sent back to Turkey after they crossed the river to Greece, the second such recent incident after journalist Murat Çapan, who had been sentenced to 22.5 years for two news stories, and others were returned home by Greece last month.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) reported that unofficial refoulement from Greece to Turkey took place on the Maritza River on May 24.

Meanwhile, 4 people have been detained in the Keşan district of Edirne province while attempting to flee to Greece in a bid to escape a post-coup witch-hunt currently ongoing in Turkey, the Cumhuriyet daily reported on Monday. According to the report, a surgeon, Mehmet Ali Yılmaz (34), and a physician, Meryem Dağdelen (31), who were both fired from their jobs by government decree; and Hatice Çelikcan (45) and Murat Yılmaz (45) were caught by gendarmes as they were trying to flee to Greece. Dağdelen and Çelikcan reportedly wanted to go to Greece to reunite with their husbands.

Thousands of people have fled Turkey due to a massive witch-hunt launched by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government against the country’s dissidents and sympathizers of the Gülen movement in particular since a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016

A controversial military coup attempt on July 15 killed over 240 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah 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.

At least 161,751 people were detained or investigated and 50,334 people were arrested in Turkey in the framework of the Turkish government’s massive post-coup witch hunt campaign targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement since the controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016, according to statistics reported by state-run Anadolu news agency by basing on information taken from the officials from Turkey’s Justice Minsitry on June 13. (SCF with June 19, 2017

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