Secret documents obtained by a research group show that the Turkish military had prepared to force back home eight officers who fled to Greece in the aftermath of the failed 2016 coup in Turkey.
The Nordic Research Monitoring Network published official documents on Wednesday which it claims prove that the Turkish General Staff transmitted orders to the Land Forces Command and aviation units on July 16, 2016, instructing them to execute a plan to bring a helicopter and the eight Turkish soldiers back from Greece.
The secret General Staff orders to bring both the Sikorsky and the Turkish soldiers back to Turkey were conveyed to the Land Forces Command aviation unit under the code “Harekat Yıldırım” (“Operation Lightning”), which in Turkish military terms means that the operation must be put into motion within ten minutes of receipt of the order.
According to the documents, the Land Forces Command made contact with the Greek side after a Sikorsky helicopter was used by the Turkish soldiers to flee the crackdown which followed the failed coup in Turkey.
According to the intelligence memo, Greek authorities at the time agreed to return not only the helicopter but also the eight Turkish officers who had fled to Greece in fear of their lives.
The order confirms a message shared by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Twitter at 17:15 on July 16, in which he said he had spoken to then-Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias on the phone and claimed Kotzias assured him that Greece would return the eight soldiers as soon as possible, the Network says.
The report, by journalist Abdullah Bozkurt, indicates that it appeared some sort of political bargain had been struck between Turkish and Greek officials in the initial hours following the incident,
But the plan to turn the Turkish officers over was thwarted after Greek law enforcement registered their asylum applications with Interpol. The Greek judiciary then stepped in to assess the applications of the eight Turkish officers, who raised the credible specter of torture and ill treatment if they were returned to Turkey.