The Court of Appeals in Athens rejected Turkey's request for legal assistance in the trial of a Greek pilot accused of shooting down a Turkish military jet in 1996, dealing a blow to efforts of the family of the downed pilot who went missing and is presumed dead.
Capt. Nail Erdoğan is believed to have been killed while Lt. Col. Osman Çilekli survived when the jet they were aboard crashed in international waters between Greece and Turkey over the Aegean Sea during a dog fight with Greek jets over a disputed body of water. Neither his body nor the wreckage of the warplane was recovered, though they are believed to be near the Greek island of Kos. Çilekli, who ejected to safety, maintained that their plane was shot down by a Greek Mirage warplane but strained relations between Turkey and Greece over sovereignty in international waters bogged down the case. Erdoğan's family appealed to the judiciary after reports in Greek media corroborated Çilekli's claim and named Thanos Grivas as the Greek fighter jet's pilot, who was responsible for deliberately shooting down the Turkish aircraft.
Prosecutors seek an aggravated life sentence for Grivas over the incident initially blamed on "a malfunction" of the Greek jet's weapons system. Greek news agency ANA-MPA reported that a request by prosecutors in Ankara filed two months ago was rejected after the court of appeals discussed the matter with the Foreign Ministry on "whether approval of request would affect relations with third countries."
Dogfights and "harassment" of fighter jets by the Greek armed forces were once common, especially in the 1990s, as tensions were high between the two countries over disputed airspace and the territorial waters of the Aegean Sea. The two countries have long failed to reach an agreement over maritime borders.
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