A lawyer representing eight suspects wanted by Turkey for their role in the July 15, 2016 coup attempt said they were freed pending a ruling on their applications for asylum. Quoted by the Associated Press, Omiros Zelios said yesterday that the last of his clients was released from police custody last week. The eight men were already living in a secret location under police protection. Greece has so far granted asylum to one of the putschists, while the cases of the others are pending though the authorities are expected to grant them asylum as well.
Last month, Greece's top administrative court rejected objections to asylum for Süleyman Özkaynakçı, one of the suspects wanted by Turkey, sparking outrage in Ankara. Özkaynakçı and others hijacked a military helicopter and fled to Greece when the coup, blamed on military infiltrators of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), was thwarted. The asylum request was accepted in December 2017 by an independent asylum commission in Greece, but later the Greek government raised an objection to it. He was released briefly after being granted asylum but arrested again after the government raised an objection to the asylum. The maximum detention period had already expired for soldiers at the end of May.
After the July 15 coup attempt, eight soldiers - two commanders, four captains and two sergeants - escaped to Greece in a Sikorsky helicopter and landed in Alexandroupolis. Following their landing, they asked for asylum from Greek authorities. Before their asylum request was taken to court, a Greek court sentenced the eight men to a suspended two-month jail sentence for illegal entry into Greece. The Turkish government formally requested that Greece extradite them. Greece rejected Turkey's third extradition request for the eight soldiers in March. The Greek appeals court handling the case ruled that the suspects would not get a fair trial in Turkey if extradited.
The officers are wanted in connection with their role in the coup attempt's Istanbul leg. When the coup attempt failed, they fled the headquarters of the 66th Mechanized Infantry Brigade in the city where they were deployed. The military base served as the meeting place for a group of putschist officers who are accused of gathering there two days before the attempt to discuss the details. Four people, including Col. Sait Ertürk, were killed at the same base in a clash with pro-coup troops.
Turkey earlier condemned rulings not to extradite coup suspects as "politically motivated." The two countries, which recently sought to improve their relations after a past of hostilities, have agreements in place in the fight against terrorism. Due to its location at the gateway of Europe, Greece has been a popular destination both for migrants and fleeing FETÖ suspects after Turkey escalated a crackdown on the terrorist group in the wake of the coup attempt. Turkish border security has stopped dozens of FETÖ suspects on the land border with Greece, while the Turkish Coast Guard has prevented a large number of the group's members from fleeing aboard boats to the Greek islands from nearby Turkish shores since the summer of 2016. Yesterday, police in the city of Edirne that borders Greece, captured 11 people near the border, including a judge linked to FETÖ, as they tried to cross the border into Greece. Kurt is wanted for a FETÖ plot to imprison the group's critics and opponents. He was the judge in the "military espionage" trial where military officers deemed obstacles to FETÖ's clout in the army were imprisoned with concocted evidence based on false allegations of espionage for other countries. Zafer Kılınç, who served as the prosecutor in the same sham trial, was also captured last year while trying to cross into Greece.
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