by Aggelos Skordas
The Greek Council of State, the country’s supreme court, has turned down the government’s appeal against its earlier decision to grant asylum to a Turkish soldier who fled his country following the failed coup attempt of July 2016, paving the way for all eight Turkish servicemen (three majors, three captains and two sergeants) to finally be granted asylum and travel documents.
The decision has sparked fury in Ankara, with ruling Justice and Development Party spokesperson Omer Celik issuing a strongly worded statement, accusing Greece of supporting alleged “coup plotters” and “terrorists”: “Greek Council of State has ruled that the coup plotter terrorists who fled to Greece after the failed coup attempt of 15 July will be granted asylum status. It is another scandalous decree by the Greek judiciary to protect coup plotter terrorists”, Celik’s tweet reads.
“Greece suffered a lot from coups in the past but it is obvious now that there are other motives for the Greek judiciary to leave the path of law and instead protect coup plotters. Coup plotters are the most dangerous enemies of our nation and state. Greek judiciary is siding with enemies of Turkey with this decree. Fight against coup plotters should also be based on principles likewise with the fight against terrorism. Double standards in the fight against terrorism is tantamount to supporting terrorism. Judicial decrees which protect coup plotters are also tantamount to supporting coup attempt”, Celik highlighted adding that “[it is] crystal clear that Greek judiciary sided with Turkey’s enemies and coup plotters with this decree. This is much more serious and shameful than supporting terrorism”.
“We will resolutely continue our fight against coup plotters as we do against terrorism. In this fight, we will never forget who support terrorists by providing arms and who protect coup plotters by judicial decrees”, he concluded.
On its behalf, the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the decision is “against the obligations of Greece on international treaties for the fight against terrorism and violates 1951 Geneva Convention Relating the Status of Refugees”. Moreover, the Ministry underlined that Greece has repeatedly “rejected the extradition of these traitors and laid the grounds for these kinds of decision that hurts the conscience of the Turkish nation,” while calling on the Greek authorities not to turn the country into a “safe harbor for coup plotters”.
Presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin characterized the ruling as “scandalous” and urged the European Union to “reject and condemn it”.
Despite the Greek government’s objection, the supreme court issued the release of the escaping helicopter’s co-pilot on April 19. The decision was followed by the release of the remaining seven Turkish soldiers by early June, while all of them were granted asylum. Due to “lack of evidence”, the Greek Council of State’s decision grants the serviceman the right to issue travel documents with the ruling forming a legal precedent.
The Turkish soldiers fled to Greece with an army Black Hawk helicopter hours after the coup attempt and landed to the Northeastern city of Alexandroupolis.
Nearly 250 people died and some 2,200 were injured during the coup attempt carried out by a faction of the Turkish Army in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir and other major cities on 15 July 2016. Erdogan’s government has since led a crackdown on alleged “coup plotters” and “supporters” of Gulen, with the dismissal of more than 150,000 public workers, state officials, army officers, academics and other state employees while more than 50,000 people have been arrested.
The case has further escalated tensions between Greece and Turkey, which in 1996 came to the brink of war over the status of Imia, two uninhabited islets in Eastern Aegean.