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Turkey issues arrest warrants for coup suspects after Greece rejects extradition

Louisa Gouliamake, AFP | Eight Turkish army officers are escorted by Greek police as they arrive at the Greek Supreme Court on January 26, 2017.

Turkish authorities have issued arrest warrants for eight soldiers who fled to Greece after July's failed coup attempt in Turkey, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Thursday.


The decision by the Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s office came directly after Greece’s Supreme Court ruled Thursday against the extradition of the soldiers, accused by Turkey of being involved in last summer's abortive putsch.

Turkey’s foreign ministry accused Greece of protecting coup plotters and failing in the fight against terrorism.

In a statement, the Turkish foreign ministry said the Greek ruling appears politically motivated, is against international law, and breaches the rights of the victims of the July 15 coup attempt. It said Turkey would continue efforts to ensure the soldiers’ extradition and prosecution.

“We protest this decision which prevents these individuals who have threatened the life of our president and took an active role in a coup attempt that killed 248 of our citizens ... from appearing in front of Turkish judiciary,” the statement said.

“Once again Greece, an ally and a neighbour, has failed to fulfill the basics of the fight against terrorism,” it said, also accusing Athens of harbouring far-left and Kurdish militant groups that have carried out attacks in Turkey.

The men three majors, three captains and two sergeant-majors landed a helicopter in northern Greece on July 16 and sought political asylum saying they feared for their lives in Turkey. They deny a role in the attempt to oust President Tayyip Erdogan, which led to a purge of the military and civil service.

The eight stand accused of attempting to abrogate the Turkish constitution and dissolve parliament, seizing a helicopter using violence, and of attempting to assassinate Erdogan.

“The possibility of their rights being violated or reduced regardless of the degree of guilt or the gravity of the crimes they are accused of does not allow the implementation of extradition rules,” a Greek Supreme Court president said.

The court ruled that the soldiers, who have been kept in protective custody pending final decisions on their asylum applications, must be freed. The rulings cannot be overturned.

A 'big victory for European values'

In addition to demanding their extradition, Turkey has branded the men traitors, in a case which has highlighted the sometimes strained relations between the two neighbours and NATO allies at odds over a series of issues ranging from the divided island of Cyprus to air fights over the Aegean Sea.

Their lawyer Christos Mylonopoulos said the verdict was “a big victory for European values”.

The two countries play an important role in the handling of Europe’s worst migration crisis in decades and the EU depends on Ankara to enforce a deal to stem mass migration to Europe.


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