The 8 military officers won’t be sent back to face torture and death. Ankara threatens to cancel deal on refugees – Kammenos urges Turkey to respect ‘democratic process’
Athens.- (GreekNewsOnline, ANA, Reuters)
Greek government on Saturday shot back at threats by Ankara to scrap a bilateral migrant deal, in response to the Supreme Court’s decision on Thursday not to extradite the eight officers that Turkey has accused of treason.
Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said that Turkey should first direct its threats to the European Union and NATO with which it has also signed agreements. Kammenos also called Turkey to come to terms with the trappings of democracy. “Turkey must understand that the justice system in democratic countries is independent,” he said.
Thursday’s decision capped a six-month period of intense pressure on Athens – behind the scenes and publicly as well – over an issue that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has described as “personal.”
Ankara’s persistence elevated the extradition of the officers to face trial over their alleged role in a failed coup last summer into a priority issue defining bilateral relations. The decision not to turn the officers over on the grounds they may not receive a fair trial was denounced by Ankara as a breach of trust, claiming it was politically motivated aimed at harming Turkish interests.
“We will take all necessary steps, including the cancelation of the bilateral readmission agreement” on refugees, the state-run Anadolu Agency quoted Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, as saying in the Turkish Mediterranean resort of Antalya.
“We cannot look positively upon countries that protect terrorists, traitors and coup plotters,” Cavusoglu said. “Greece must know this.”
“These are eight traitors who intended to kill our president — not petty criminals,” he added.
The Greek government said it had strongly condemned the July 15 coup attempt and that its perpetrators were not welcome in the country, but added that the Greek courts were independent.
“From the outset, the Greek government resolutely condemned the attempted coup and supported the democratically elected government and the observance of constitutional legality in our neighboring country,” Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said in a statement.
“Today we underscore, as we did then, that the perpetrators of the coup are not welcome in our country,” Tsipras said. “Within Greece, the sole authority responsible for the relevant judgment is the independent Greek justice system, whose decisions are binding.”
Meanwhile, Turkey’s justice ministry made a new extradition request for the eight Turkish servicemen, according to Anadolu Agency.
Given these developments, Turkey is almost certain to demand at the upcoming meeting of NATO defense ministers in mid-February, the end of patrols by NATO’s Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2) in the Aegean Sea to stem the flow of migrants into Greece.
Greek authorities on Friday announced that the eight Turkish military servicemen who sought refuge in Greece after July’s failed coup in Turkey will remain in custody. The head of the Greek Police Aliens Directorate Constantinos Louziotis said the eight will not be released following a decision by the Supreme Court against their extradition to Turkey since their asylum applications were still pending but also because they posed a potential public order and national security threat.
For the above reasons, they will continue to be detained at the Olympic Village police station, he said.
The public prosecutor for extraditions Maria Malouhou on Thursday called for their release after the court’s decision, provided they were not being held for other reasons. In an announcement on Friday, the police said that an order to hold the three for three months was issued after they landed in Alexandroupolis in a Turkish military helicopter, to be renewed every three months until a final decision on their application for asylum was issued by the 5th Independent Refugees Committee.
Meanwhile, the Hellenic Union for Human Rights issued an announcement welcoming the Supreme Court’s decision “with relief,” on Friday. “In the broader framework of justice insecurity and uncertainty that marks Greek reality for even self-evident matters, it is no small thing that the Supreme Court decided not to extradite the eight servicemen sought by Turkey,” it said. It also noted that the human rights situation in Turkey was such as to “permit no other outcome”.
“The asylum request of the eight is now being heard at a secondary level, while numerous similar cases of Turks that sought refuge in Greece wait their turn. It is an opportunity for the Greek government and Greek justice to help put the brakes on a constantly deepening autocracy in the neighbouring country,” it added.
ASKED FOR ASYLUM
About 40 mostly high-ranking Turkish soldiers who worked at NATO facilities in Germany but were suspended after the failed coup in Turkey in July have requested asylum in Germany, news magazine Der Spiegel and broadcaster ARD reported on Saturday.
A spokeswoman for the German interior ministry confirmed that asylum applications had been received from Turkish military personnel, but had no comment on the exact numbers. She said each application would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
No comment was immediately available from NATO officials.
The reports of the asylum applications filed by Turkish soldiers in Germany came as Chancellor Angela Merkel prepared to travel to Turkey to meet President Tayyip Erdogan.
The report quoted officials of the German federal migration office and the interior ministry as saying that the asylum applications would be handled as all others.
Norbert Roettgen, head of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee, told Spiegel that political considerations could not play a role in asylum cases.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a conference in November that some Turkish military officers posted to NATO in Europe had requested asylum but gave no specific numbers.
Reuters reported in October that Turkey had fired hundreds of senior military staff serving at NATO in Europe and the United States after the coup.
Most were recalled to Turkey, but some chose not to return, fearing reprisals.