December 30, 2017 / 5:50 PM / 9 months ago

Greek government applies for cancellation of asylum granted to Turkish soldier

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - The Greek government said on Saturday that it had filed a request for the cancellation of the asylum granted to a Turkish soldier accused of involvement in last year’s coup attempt.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaks to the press in Manhattan, New York, U.S., December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Amr Alfiky

Greece’s administrative court of appeal will now look into the case.

Eight Turkish soldiers fled to Greece following Turkey’s abortive July 2016 coup. Seven of them applied for asylum and were rejected, but have been kept in preventive custody.

Angered by a decision to grant asylum to the eighth soldier by the Greek asylum service committee, a panel of judges and experts, Turkey said earlier in the day that the move would affect bilateral relations and cooperation.

Athens said it was following its standing position regarding the eight soldiers, “as it has been repeatedly expressed, also in public”, a government official said.

The Greek government has said that it does not support coup plotters and that the country’s justice system is independent.

A Greek police official said the soldier who was granted asylum would be released from custody.

“By granting asylum to one of eight coup plotters involved in the July 15 coup, Greece has once again showed that it is a country that protects and embraces coup plotters with this decision,” Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Greek courts have blocked two extradition requests by Turkish authorities, drawing an angry rebuke from Ankara and highlighting the tense relations between the NATO allies, who remain at odds over various issues.

During his visit to Greece earlier this month, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara did not want Greece to turn into a safe haven for coup plotters.

The two neighbours teetered on the brink of war in 1974, 1987 and 1996 over long-running disputes over ethnically divided Cyprus, mineral rights in the Aegean Sea and sovereignty over uninhabited islets in the Aegean.

Since the attempted coup, Turkish authorities have jailed around 50,000 people pending trial while more than 150,000 have been sacked or suspended from their jobs in the military, public and private sectors.

Rights groups and Turkey’s Western allies say they fear President Tayyip Erdogan is using the failed coup as a pretext to crush all dissent. The Ankara government says its security measures are necessary to fight the threats it is facing.

Additional reporting by Renee Maltezou in Athens; writing by Ali Kucukgocmen; editing by Mark Heinrich and Stephen Powell

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