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Greece's Supreme Court delays ruling on Turkish fugitive soldiers

Greece's highest court has pushed back announcing its decision on the extradition of eight Turkish servicemen who fled to Greece following the failed July coup. The court is due to make its decision known on Thursday.

A group of eight Turkish soldiers, who had fled to Greece following July's botched coup attempt, appeared before Athens' highest court on Monday to fight an extradition order from Ankara.

However, following the hearing, court officials announced that a decision will not be announced until Thursday as one of the presiding judges fell ill.

Turkey's government alleges the men were involved in the failed effort to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and had demanded they be immediately returned.

However, the senior prosecutors representing the soldiers have urged the court not to sanction the extraditions, arguing that the servicemen would not receive a fair trial in Turkey, nor could their safety be guaranteed.

In December, separate hearings in the lower courts saw contradictory decisions being issued, with the courts electing to protect five soldiers but also send back three.

Awkward relations

The eight servicemen - identified as two majors, four captains and two master sergeants - had requested asylum after landing a military helicopter in the northern city of Alexandroupoli on July 16, a day after the botched coup.

Listen to audio 05:08

Inside Europe: Turkish soldiers in Greek court

Greece had initially refused to grant them asylum in September, a decision that the officers are also currently appealing.

The legal battle has complicated the sometimes-strained relations between Greece and Turkey, neighbors and NATO allies at odds over issues ranging from the island of Cyprus to the air rights over the Aegean Sea.

Greece also relies on Ankara's cooperation in upholding its end of a heavily criticized refugee swap deal agreed with the EU last year.

Erdogan's purge

Erdogan and his allies have carried out a purge of the country's military, judiciary and civil service, detaining thousands of people suspected of conspiring to dislodge the government.

The eight servicemen fighting extradition have said that their family members are among those who have been dismissed from the jobs and had their passports confiscated.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also said there should be no delay in bringing back the death penalty for those behind the putsch attempt. It was abolished in 2004.

dm/se (AFP, dpa)

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