Greek appeals court suspends asylum ruling for FETÖ-linked soldier


The Court of Appeals in Athens issued on Monday a stay of a lower court ruling that granted asylum to a former Turkish soldier who fled to Greece after the July 15 coup attempt launched by the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ).

The ruling concerning Süleyman Özkaynakçı came after the Greek government's appeal to the decision, citing its possible effect to the country's ties with Turkey.

The court said it was granting the order "for reasons of public interest" until a formal court hearing is scheduled against the asylum board's decision on Feb. 15.

Ankara is demanding the extradition of several Turkish soldiers for their role in the coup attempt, which left 250 people dead and injured 2,200 others.

Meanwhile, Greek media reported that Athens is afraid of exacerbating relations with Turkey due to the asylum process of coup plotters.

According to Kathimerini daily, the court's order will be a temporary decree, and the ultimate decision will be made in February.

"Atina is afraid of the pressure that will be applied by the Turkish government if the asylum requests of coup plotters are accepted by the court," an article in the newspaper suggested.

It also said the coup plotters may apply to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) if asylum requests are denied by the court.

The asylum board's decision exposed the tense relations between the two countries which have long been at odds over a host of regional issues.

About filing its appeal, the Greek government said it thought matters of such political importance should be determined by the courts.

Following the ruling, Özkaynakçı, who was previously released, was detained by Greek security forces.

The decision is expected to set precedent for the seven other soldiers who fled to Greece on the morning of July 16, 2016 in an army helicopter.

Last January, the Greek Supreme Court decided not to extradite the eight ex-officers to Turkey, in a ruling the Turkish Foreign Ministry criticized as "politically motivated".

Greek Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis has said the government will consider holding a trial for them if Ankara files an official request.

The issue was also discussed during Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's landmark visit to Greece last month.

In addition to the coup attempt, Ankara also accuses FETÖ of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary.

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