An Ankara prosecutor on Tuesday sent a letter to Greece’s Supreme Court Prosecutor asking for judicial assistance in bringing a compensation suit against a Hellenic Air Force pilot for felling a Turkish fighter jet. According to Turkish authorities, the Greek pilot allegedly shot down a Turkish F16 using a missile during an engagement on October 8, 1996. During the incident, generally attributed to an accident, the Turkish plane fell and its Turkish pilot Nail Erdogan was killed, while his co-pilot was injured but survived.
The charges included in the Ankara prosecutor’s letter are that the Greek pilot, while intercepting the Turkish plane in a Mirage 2000, shot the Turkish fighter jet down over international waters using a missile. He is also accused of violating Turkish laws for the protection of the independence, unity, integrity and security of the Turkish state.
The legal proceedings were initiated by the family of the dead Turkish pilot, whose body was never recovered, assisted by Turkish unions of retired military officers and nationalist organizations. Also involved is the surviving co-pilot Lt. Col. Osman Çilekli, who had ejected from the plane when he realized it was falling and is now claiming one million euros in compensation.
According to Turkish authorities, the two pilots were on a training flight in the Aegean.
The issue of the fallen plane is periodically revived by Ankara, especially during times of tension in Greek-Turkish relations, and some years ago it employed a Canadian firm in an attempt to find and raise the sunken aircraft, which was ultimately abandoned.
The Greek side considers the aircraft’s fall an accident, while the Turkish co-pilot that survived was recovered in the Greek search-and-rescue area, indicating that the aircraft fell while in Greek airspace. In fact, Çilekli had thanked Greek authorities for his rescue and the care he received in Greek hospitals at that time.
The fatal crash occurred during a mock dogfight between two Turkish F-16s and two Greek fighter jets that were scrambling to identify and intercept them after they entered Greek airspace. At some point during the intense maneuvres, the unlucky F-16 pilots radioed that the aircraft was out of control and that its crew were ejecting.
There were no Turkish vessels or helicopters taking part in the subsequent search-and-rescue operation because the Turkish side declined to put them under the orders of the Greek frigate “Elli,” which was coordinating the operation.