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Joint statement by 11 ex-bar association presidents defending asylum ruling for Turkish officer

Eleven former bar association presidents from across Greece on Monday, New Year’s Day, issued a joint statement calling on the Tsipras government to respect last week’s decision by an independent judicial committee to grant political asylum to one of eight Turkish servicemen that arrived in the country immediately after a failed 2016 coup in neighboring Turkey.

The leftist-rightist coalition government filed a motion to overturn the decision a day after it was issued on Friday, and hours after a heated response by the Turkish foreign ministry and Erdogan-dominated government’s deputy prime minister.

“International legal and case law rules are officially inviolable by every government that respects itself and its citizens, and the same international rules are not subject to short-sighted, capricious, opportunistic and expedient policies,” the statement read.

In reminding that the three members of the relevant appellate-level asylum committee (No. 3) are comprised of two serving administrative judges and a representative of the UNHCR – and all three have been appointed by relevant migration minister Yannis Mouzalas –  the statement emphasizes that the 58-page decision cites international and other treaties that “absolutely” support the decision to grant asylum to the Turkish army officer.

The latter was identified as the co-pilot of the army helicopter that landed at Alexandroupolis airport after the failed putsch attempt in July 2016.  A total of eight Turkish army officers and NCOs requested political asylum. Two extradition requests by official Ankara were rejected by Greek courts, as far up as the Supreme Court.

Although the mostly leftist Tsipras government moved to overturn the asylum decision, the prospect of extraditing the eight men to Turkey to face whatever charges is apparently not at stake.

Government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said as much on Sunday.

“The issue of extradition has concluded. The eight will not be extradited, regardless of the course of their asylum requests,” he Tweeted.

In a bid to keep relations the Turkish government as trouble-free as possible, Athens has repeatedly stated it does not welcome coup participants or any attempt to overthrow the legal government in the neighboring country. At the same time, the independent Greek judiciary has ruled that no tangible evidence has been provided by Turkish authorities to prove allegations that the eight actively participated in the coup attempt.

Additionally, Greek courts cited the risks associated with the incarceration of coup suspects in Turkey today and concerns over their receiving a fair trial, a point also underlined in the committee’s decision to grant asylum to the Turkish officer.

A ruling on the asylum requests by the remaining seven Turks is pending.  

In a later official reaction vis-a-vis blunt language used by Turkish Deputy PM Hakan Cavusoglu, who criticized the decision, sources in the Greek prime minister’s office called on the latter in the New Year (2018) to “think first and then speak”.