Greek court rules against extraditing Turkish soldiers | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 05.12.2016
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Greek court rules against extraditing Turkish soldiers

A Greek court has ruled against extraditing three soldiers who fled Turkey after July's coup attempt. Turkey's government alleges the men were involved in the failed effort to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

A court has refused to extradite three of eight Turkish servicemen who fled to Greece after the failed July 15 military coup. They all deny playing a role in the attempt to dislodge President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from power.

"I am very pleased with the ruling," Stavroula Tomara, the soldiers' lawyer, told the news agency Reuters. "They shouldn't have been extradited. The court was objective."

Five other Turkish soldiers face extradition from Greece. The eight officers fled to Greece in a military helicopter on July 16 and landed in the northern city of Alexandroupoli.

In September, a first-instance board rejected the claims made by five of the officers. They have appealed that decision.

Greek officials have kept the soldiers in protective custody pending decisions on their asylum applications. On Monday, the court ruled that officials must recognize the soldiers as asylum applicants pending a final ruling on their claims.

The remaining officers continue to wait for decisions on their requests. The court could rule on the extraditions of the other five soldiers in the coming days.

Turkey's troubling crackdown

Following the coup, President Erdogan and his allies have carried out a purge of Turkey's military and civil service. The government can still appeal its extradition request, and any final decision rests with Greece's justice minister. 

The officers said they would not receive a fair trial in Turkey, where the authorities have detained thousands of people following the coup, including top generals. Tomara, their lawyer, said the "humiliating" treatment and "torture" meted out to other coup suspects in Turkey had made an impression on the Greek court.

Last month, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said several Turkish officers serving in the alliance's command positions had requested asylum in member states. Several other Turkish nationals, including civil servants and businesspeople, have sought refuge in Greece following the coup attempt.

The extradition fight has exposed the sometimes-strained relations between Greece and Turkey, neighbors and NATO allies at odds over issues from the island of Cyprus to air rights over the Aegean Sea. Greece also depends on Turkey to hold up its end of a heavily criticized refugee swap negotiated with the European Union in the spring.

mkg/se (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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