Greek asylum officials have begun a hearing for the first of the officers who fled Turkey after the failed coup. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused them of playing a role in the attempt to depose him.
Capt. Feridun Coban was interviewed on Friday at the headquarters of the Greek asylum service in Athens, the first of eight such hearings with Turkish military personnel that will take place in the coming days.
Along with his seven companions - three captains, two commanders and two sergeants - Coban flew to Greece by military helicopter one day after the attempted military-led coup on July 15. The men claim they won't receive a fair trial in Turkey, where Erdogan has led a wide crackdown on civil servants, academics, journalists and members of the military and the police.
Ankara has called on Athens to extradite the eight men, calling them "traitors" and "terrorist elements." The lawyer representing the eight men said she will argue for her clients to remain in Greece.
"We are ready to do everything humanly possible and legally feasible, with utmost diligence, to avert the extradition of these eight innocent people to Turkey. And be sure of this, we will make it," Stavroula Tomara said.
Asylum officials are slated to hear the other seven men's claims on Monday. Decisions regarding their asylum applications will not be made for two or three months.
The episode has led to growing tensions in Athens, Brussels and Ankara, as Europe - and especially Greece - is largely depending on Turkey to help stem the flow of migrants arriving on the continent as part of a controversial deal Turkey signed with the EU.
Greece and Turkey already have a tense relationship, having frequently clashed over territorial disputes in the Aegean Sea, as well as the status of Cyprus.
Meanwhile, Greece's left-leaning government is facing mounting pressure as it struggles to deal with not only the influx of refugees but also its debt crisis.
blc/sms (AFP, Reuters)