Turkey Slams Tsipras over Release of Turkish Soldiers



Former Turkish military personnel seeking asylum in Greece (file photo)

Ankara on Monday slammed Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras after the release of the last of the eight Turkish ex-soldiers who have been granted asylum in Greece.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag accused Tsipras of failing to keep his promise to return the eight servicemen to Turkey and repeated the accusation that Greece “protects terrorists”.

At the same time, Bozdag threatened that Turkish authorities will find the eight army officers “wherever they go”.

The eight servicemen sought asylum in Greece in July 2016, after the failed coup attempt in Turkey. According to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Tsipras had promised that he would send the men back to Turkey in a telephone conversation the two leaders had right after the failed putsch.

Ankara has been pressuring Greece to extradite the eight men all along, branding them as “terrorists” and “traitors”. Greek courts, however, ruled that the men should be granted asylum on the grounds that they would not get a fair trial in Turkey and would be subject to torture.

“Greece is a country that has suffered by coups like Turkey,” Bozdag said in a statement.  “Regarding the extradition of criminals, there are international rules. As a country that has paid a great price from coups, the coup terrorists must be returned to Turkey. Greece protects the Gulenist terrorists, who have attempted a coup in Turkey. The Greek state gave them support. We as Turkey cannot accept this.”

Bozdag referred to the alleged promise that Tsipras gave to Erdogan following the failed putsch: “With some statements made in Greece by its prime minister, right after the coup, we have had a positive climate that they will be extradited to Turkey. We had a good deal of hope. We thought that Mr. Tsipras will keep his word. But we have seen that, with the activation of the judicial mechanisms, the coup plotters were not sent back. In this case there is political involvement.”

The Turkish deputy prime minister added: “It is our job to find them wherever they go, pack them up, return them to Turkey and hand them over to Turkish justice.”

On Monday night, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias spoke to public television ERT in reply to the Turkish deputy prime minister and his statements. “A number of Turkish politicians cannot understand the rule of law,” Kotzias said.

In response to Bozdag’s threats, the Greek foreign minister stressed that “Turkey are not entitled to come over here and get someone from here, nor can, nor will we allow them to.”

The eight Turkish asylum seekers have been released from custody and they will stay in a well-guarded, undisclosed location.