In handwritten letter sent exclusively to Proto Thema newspaper, the 8 Turkish military officers who fled to Greece and sought political asylum during the July 15 failed coup attempt in Turkey outline why they are not traitors and the harsh and unjust repercussions they will face if extradited to Turkey to face trial.
The fate of the men hangs in the balance, as their case will be examined by the Greek Supreme Court, amid a climate of diplomatic pressure and a tug-o-war between Turkey, Greece, the EU and human rights groups. “We believe in Greek Justice. Whatever the result we believe we will face a fair trial”, they write the 8 in a co-signed letter published in Proto Thema. They claim they are innocent and all accusations against them are baseless, while expressing their faith in the independent judicial system in Greece.
Speaking to Proto Thema from their well-protected quarters set up at the Olympic village in Athens, they described how they were compelled to flee to Greece after police officers and citizens were shooting at them following a rescue operation they were part the night after the Turkish coup attempt. “The only thing we thought of was our safety and how to return to our base”, they said. “We were in a state of shock and never expected something like this to happen”, they told Proto Thema.
The men feared they would face brutal reprisals like the ones published on youtube against other Turkish soldiers on the streets, which is why they decided to dedect to Greece, a European country that respected human rights.
Drawings of their children
The case of the 8 defectors to Greece has been a matter ongoing contention and negotiations between Greece and Turkey, as the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, along with the country’s Foreign Ministry have repeatedly demanded their immediate extradition to Turkey from the Greek authorities over the past 6 months to stand trial for treason, something the 8 deny.
So far three Greek court rulings have failed to reach a conclusive result on whether they should be extradited to Turkey, with the latest court decision ruling they should not be extradited. This led to their case being taken to the county’s Supreme Court, which in three separate sessions will examine the previous court appeals and are expected to deliver a final verdict on their application for political asylum.
Ankara is demanding their extradition to Turkey where, among other things, they will face charges of the attempted murder of President Erdogan, violation of the country’s constitution and the theft of state equipment (fled to Alexandroupolis in a military helicopter).
Meanwhile, the European press has raised concerns regarding their fate and how the Greek government will handle the case, with the Financial Times pointing out that while Greek PM Alexis Tsipras had promised Erdogan the men would be extradited, the Greek politician and his left government is likely to face harsh criticism domestically and by the EU for intervening in the Greek justice system.