Greek supreme court blocks extradition of 8 Turkish soldiers: Turkey not pleased, tensions increasing

by omouggos

The Turkish asylees being escorted to a Greek court.

The Turkish asylees being escorted to a Greek court.

Following the July 15 attempted coup, eight Turkish officers fled to Greece seeking asylum. The Turkish government wants them extradited, claiming they were involved in the coup and that they even attempted to assassinate President Erdoğan. For a while, the fate of the asylees remained uncertain, as a Greek court approved the extradition of three of them back to Turkey, while for another three rejected the extradition request.1

However, on January 26 the Supreme Court of Greece ruled against the extradition of all eight men, over concerns that they would not receive a fair trial or be humanely treated in Turkey.2 Such concerns are reasonable as there are many reports of imprisoned accused coup plotters being tortured and mistreated.3 Regardless of the ruling’s validity, what is certain is that it is causing further strains in relations between Greece and Turkey.

To put it mildly, Turkish officials are not pleased with the Greece’s Supreme Court decision. The Foreign Ministry issued the following statement on the issue:4

“We protest this verdict, which prevents these people from standing before independent Turkish justice. [The soldiers] actively participated in the coup attempt targeting the democratic order in Turkey and the life of our president, martyring 248 of our citizens and wounding 2,193.”

In addition to accusing Greece of reluctance in fighting terrorist organizations such as the PKK and the DHKP-C, the Foreign Ministry also stated that the “politically-motivated decision” would cause a “comprehensive evaluation of bilateral ties” between the two nations.

Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Işık also characterized the ruling as a political move, stating:5But unfortunately, at the end of months long trials the decision given by the high court in Greece was a complete disappointment. I say it clearly: this is not a legal decision; this decision was not a legal decision that spreads justice. This is a political decision.

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu threatened “There is a migration deal we signed, including a readmission deal with Greece, and we are evaluating what we can do, including the cancellation of the readmission deal with Greece.6 He also accused Greece of possessing “terrorists like the DHKP-C and the PKK” and that “that there are some DHKP-C camps in Greece.” Yeni Safak also has reported that previously Greece failed to extradite to Turkey 50 terrorists from the PKK, DHKP-C, and FETÖ.7

Referring to the allegation that the asylees attempted to assassinate the Turkish President, pro-Erdoğan journalist Cemir Barlas suggested, “Anyone who attempts to assassinate a European leader can flee to Turkey. From now on, our doors are open to all.8 Prior to the Greek ruling, another pro-Erdoğan journalist Ali Karahasanoğlu also suggested that if Greece does not extradite the officers then Turkey should release about 15,000 refugees at the Greek-Turkish border.9

The official Greek response to Turkish disapproval has been to stress that Greece’s judiciary is independent of political considerations. The Greek Prime Minister’s Office issued the following statement:10

“The Greek government firmly condemned from the very first moment the attempted coup and supported the democratically elected government, and the constitutional legality in our neighbor.
We underline today, as then, that the perpetrators of the coup are not welcome in our country.

In any case, Greece respects the law, the constitution and the undeniable principle of separation of powers and fully respects for international law, including all international conventions that bind the country.

Within Greece the sole responsible for the relevant judgments is the independent Greek Justice system, whose decisions should be considered as granted that are binding.”

Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos responded in a similar vein stating “Turkey has to understand that in European countries Justice does not follow the line of government. Executive power and Judicial power are independent.11 He also warned that “Turkey cannot expect to enter the EU while at the same time debating on the reinstatement of the death penalty, we can’t have torture, or persecutions going on.

Beyond statements being lobbed back and forth over the Aegean it appears that Turkey is further escalating the situation by once again making an incursion into Greece’s territorial waters. Today (January 29) Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar made an unannounced visit to the waters off of the disputed Aegean island of Imia (known in Turkey as Kardak).12 Akar’s vessel was escorted by two special forces speed boats, and the small flotilla eventually left Greek waters after being confronted by a Greek gunboat.

The contested, yet unassuming and uninhabited island of Imia (Kardak).

This was no haphazard visit, as not only does it follow Greece’s decision not to extradite the eight Turkish officers, it also coincides with the 21st anniversary of the Imia crisis between Greece and Turkey, which reached a climax on January 28-31, 1996.13 General Akar and the Turkish officials who approved his visit, presumably Erdoğan, knew exactly what they were doing.

We will have to wait and see how this situation unfolds. Will the Greek government cave into Turkish pressure and okay the extradition request? If not, how will Turkey respond? By releasing more migrants into Greece? Ultimately, it seems highly likely for the tensions between Greece and Turkey to further escalate. Sooner or later outright hostility between the two nations will become a very real likelihood.

O Mouggos


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