January 30, 2017 / 11:54 AM / 3 years ago

Turkish soldiers in extradition row seek release from Greek police custody

ATHENS (Reuters) - Turkish soldiers caught in an extradition row between Athens and Ankara appeared before a Greek court on Monday to challenge an order extending their custody by three months, court officials said.

The eight men landed a helicopter in northern Greece in July after the failure of a coup against President Tayyip Erdogan and requested asylum, saying their lives were in danger at home.

Greece’s top court blocked their extradition last week, angering Turkey, a NATO ally which alleges the men were involved in efforts to overthrow Erdogan and has demanded they be sent home.

The men - three majors, three captains and two sergeant-majors - have been kept in custody pending final decisions on their asylum applications in Greece. They are challenging a decision by immigration authorities to extend that custody by three months on public order and national security grounds.

During Monday’s closed-door hearing, the soldiers argued that innocent people should not be held in custody, a court official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. A decision was expected in the coming days.

The months’ long case has strained relations between the two neighbours who remain at odd overs issues raging from territorial disputes to ethnically-split Cyprus.

Turkey wants Greece to reconsider what it said was a politically-motivated decision not to extradite them, and threatened measures including scrapping a bilateral migration deal with Athens.

Reporting by Constantinos Georgizas; Writing by Karolina Tagaris; editing by Ralph Boulton

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