The Greek government filed a motion last Saturday to overturn a decision by a Greek tribunal to grant asylum to one of eight Turkish officers who fled to Greece after a failed coup in Turkey in July 2016. The motion took place a day after it was issued on Friday, and hours after a heated response by the Turkish foreign ministry and Erdogan-dominated government’s deputy prime minister, Hakan Cavusoglu, who said: “The terrorists you release today are like dynamite ready to explode, and you may not have a country to protect when it does.”
Identified by the Turkish media as Suleyman Ozkaynakci, the man in question was the co-pilot of the Turkish army helicopter that landed in northeast Greece, carrying seven more military officers, who Ankara claims are followers of the Gulen movement and active participants in the coup. On their part, the three members of the appellate-level asylum committee – comprised of two serving administrative judges and a representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees – included a statement in its 58-page decision to grant asylum, that no proof was presented to back up this allegation. The committee ruled that there was no evidence the officer participated in the putsch and cited international treaties and conventions that “absolutely” support the decision to grant asylum and prevent his return to Turkey to face charges of participating in the military coup.
Deeming the decision as having “a political motive”, the Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a harsh statement on its own, accusing Greece of being “a country that protects and embraces plotters”, something “once again revealed through this decision”, which “undoubtedly have effects on our bilateral relations with Greece and our joint regional efforts.”
Although the Greek government’s motion was seen as a response to these statements, Greece’s official reaction came from President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, who used the opportunity of his annual New Year’s statement to sent a stern message to Ankara.
“We are not arrogant, we do not overestimate our power, neither will we underestimate them,” the President told reporters at the presidential mansion.
“Our role is historic even where our neighbors are concerned,” he said.
“When they forget themselves, we should show them the right way. When necessary we are united and strong and we will show this,” he added.
On the same day, eleven former bar association presidents from across Greece issued a joint statement weighing in on the issue and calling on the Tsipras government to respect the committee’s decision.
“International legal and case law rules are officially inviolable by every government that respects itself and its citizens, and the same international rules are not subject to short-sighted, capricious, opportunistic and expedient policies,” the statement read.
Although the Tsipras government moved to overturn the asylum decision, the prospect of extraditing the eight men to Turkey to face whatever charges is apparently not at stake. Two official extradition requests by Ankara have already been rejected by Greek courts, as high up as the Supreme Court.
Government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos confirmed this on Sunday, through his official Twitter account: “The issue of extradition has concluded. The eight will not be extradited, regardless of the course of their asylum requests,” he Tweeted.