July 28, 2021

Military asylum, a sensitive subject between Greece and Turkey

On each anniversary of the failed coup d’état against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on July 15, the Turkish Embassy in Athens is remembered to the good memory of the Greek authorities. “We have been waiting for four years now for the extradition of the eight soldiers (and others) who fled to Greece, she said last year on social networks. Justice must be done, as soon as possible. “ There is no doubt that the tone will be just as firm for the five years of the coup, as the exile to Greece of certain Turkish soldiers has contributed to straining relations between the two countries.

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On July 16, 2016, six pilots and two technicians, accused by the Turkish regime of having participated in the failed coup and targeted by a Turkish arrest warrant, landed by helicopter in Alexandroupoli, in northern Greece, for find refuge there. Recep Tayyip Erdogan immediately raised his voice to the Greek Prime Minister at the time, Alexis Tsipras, who, according to him, had promised him the extradition of the military. The Turkish foreign minister said at the time that “Greece becomes a country which protects and shelters the putschists”, and had even gone so far as to threaten to cancel the migrant readmission agreement signed with Greece and the European Union. A blackmail that the Turkish government often put on the table in the following years.

Fear of possible events

In January 2017, the Greek Supreme Court refused to hand over Turkish exiles to Ankara. “Two questions were asked to the Greek judges in front of these eight soldiers: did they really take part in the coup? Is Turkey a rule of law which can judge them impartially? Greek justice answered no to this last question ”, explains Ioannis N. Grigoriadis, researcher at the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (Eliamep), specialist in Turkey.

The Greek Parliament in Athens, July 2021.

“The eight officers were granted asylum in Greece, along with their families. But they are monitored and protected, for obvious security reasons ”, underlines their lawyer, Christos Mylonopoulos. Their relatives fear a possible kidnapping by the Turkish intelligence services, since several operations of this type have taken place since 2016: in Kyrgyzstan, with the arrest of Orhan Inandi, in Kenya, with that of the nephew of preacher Gülen, or Kosovo.

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“In Greece, such kidnappings did not take place, but no one is safe with the Turkish secret services, which continue to intensify their activities all over the world, notes Panayotis Tsakonas, professor of international relations at the University of Athens and researcher at Eliamep. The Turkish government is currently pushing for the Gulenists, who represent around 3% of Turkish exiles in the world, to be recognized by the Interpol agency as terrorists, which would obviously facilitate their arrest. “

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