Turkish officials are again pressing for Greece to return eight officers who fled a failed coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July, 2016.
Turkey’s NATO delegation head Ahmet Berat Conkar appeared to link the fate of two Greek soldiers arrested after straying into Turkish territory to that of the eight Turkish soldiers.
Turkey is asking for the eight to be extradited, but so far Greece, which says it is concerned that they will not receive a fair trial in Turkey, has granted all eight of the men asylum.
“The Turkish authorities and Turkish society expect the extradition of the eight murderers immediately and we assure you that two Greek soldiers detained will receive a fair trial in Turkey,” Conkar said in a letter written to European Parliament President Antonio Tajani.
The letter also complains about “the unpleasant approach of the Greek authorities about the eight putschists and European Parliament’s insincerity regarding the issue.”
The letter came after the Greek courts released the eight Turkish officers after they were granted political asylum.
“We are deeply disappointed by the several rulings of the Greek judiciary that denied extradition,” Conkar said, referring to the Greek court saying their lives could be in danger after Erdogan said he’d like the return of the death penalty, anathema to the European Union he wants his country to join.
The letter then goes on to refer to Greek Lieutenant Angelos Mitretodis and Sergeant Dimitris Kouklatzis who were arrested after accidentally straying into Turkish border while on border patrol in northern Greece during a storm in early March, stressing that they were “detained in the Turkish Military Zone.”
“I would like to conclude by stating that, Turkish authorities and Turkish society expects the extradition of (the) eight murderers immediately and we assure you that two Greek soldiers detained will receive a fair trial in Turkey,” Conkar said, not offering a direct swap.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu repeated Erdogan’s claim that Tsipras promised him the Turkish soldiers would be sent back. After the Greek soldiers were taken March 1, government spokesman for the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said they would be returned in a day or two.
According to extracts from an interview published on the website of Turkish daily Milliyet, Tsipras promised Erdogan during the the Turkish leader’s visit to Athens in December of 2017 that he would ensure the eight officers were extradited to Turkey to stand trial.
Cavusoglu said Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias had also wanted the eight officers to be returned to Turkey, but that the government’s intentions were “blocked” by Greek judicial authorities, under pressure from the European Union.
“The courts there obviously don’t listen to the government, but we know that they decided after coming under pressure from the EU,” Cavusoglu said, referring to Greek court decisions barring extradition and approving asylum.