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Greek Courts have Rejected a Turkish Request for the Extradition of Five Army Officers but have accepted the request for three others

Greece’s Supreme Court is getting ready to render the final judgement on Turkey’s request for the extradition of eight Turkish army officers. The army officers are accused of being involved in the coup that occurred in July. They then supposedly fled Turkey the following day. The extradition request was denied by Greek appellate-level judges for five of the eight officers but the head of the appeals prosecutors Antonis Liogas has lodged appeals against these rulings.

Top extradition lawyers have commented on how the decision could affect the already delicate relationship between the two countries. Greece does not want to enrage Turkey by refusing to extradite the individuals, however they have to remain independent. Greece also has to be careful, they cannot allow the extradition of individuals to a country that they believe practices torture or where the lives of the individuals would be put at risk.

The extradition was granted for three of the eight officers, who have also now appealed against the decision. According to the prosecutor, Liogas, the file presented by Turkish authorities is adequate for the extradition of the eight officers. Liohas believes the individuals should be extradited so that they can stand trial for participating in the attempted coup. Judges are obliged to accept the request under international treaties that are binding for Greece.

Of the eight army officers that were seeking asylum in Greece, the courts have accepted the extradition request for three of the individuals, the request for the other five were rejected. Top extradition lawyers have queried why five extradition requests were requested but the other three were accepted. All eight of the army officers are accused of being involved in the coup, leaving the country in the same manner and would be questioned and sentenced in the same manner if returned to Turkey. Understandably, academics and lawyers are confused at the different judgements from almost identical cases.

Officials have announced that a Greek court rejected the request for the final two of the eight military officers who fled to Greece following the failed coup attempt in Turkey.

This week, two separate sets of judges decided on the extradition of the army officers. One set of judges held that three of the soldiers would be extradited whilst the other judges held that the other three would not be extradited. Decisions on all six individuals will be being appealed to the Greek Supreme Court.

The Turkish government requested the extradition, of all eight individuals, to proceed rapidly and do not want any delays in the process. The men, who have been described by some individuals as traitors, are accused of attempting to overthrow the democratic constitution in Turkey. Turkish prosecutors have alleged that the army officers belong to the network of United States based Turkish men, and that their leader is Fethullah Gulen. Gulen is alleged to have been leading a group, who Turkey has listed as a terrorist organization, and has been charged by Turkish prosecutors in absentia.

Fethullah Gullen is currently residing in America. There are talks currently between Turkey and America to have Gulen extradited. Gulen has not lived in Turkey for over a decade and the process of his extradition has currently not been ruled on.

The army officers have denied the charges and their top extradition lawyers told the Greek court that they fear for their lives if they are returned to Turkey. Greek laws alongside European laws do not allow for the extradition of an individual to a country where the fear is that the suspect will be in danger of torture or if the individuals life is at risk.

The Judges who sat at the two Appeals Courtson Monday and also Thursday held that the lives of the Army officers would be in danger, it was stated that the individuals would be subjected to torture and they would not receive a fair trial in Turkey.

On Tuesday however, the judges did accept the extradition request for three of the army officers. The judges accepted the request on the grounds that they had been involved in the coup that occurred in July of 2016. They went on to state that they had attempted to impede a parliamentary session and they also were involved in seizing a helicopter. The judges however rejected the allegation that the army offices were involved in an assassination attempted against Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of Turkey.

Top extradition lawyers have highlighted that Turkey has problems understanding how the appeals court in Greece have ruled in favour of the extradition of three of the army officers but against the extradition of the other three. Amb. Huseyin Muftuoglu, the Turkish Foreign Minister, has spoken out about the trial. He stated that Turkey’s main expectation is for Greece to extradite all eight of the “putchists”.  

The Greek government have continued to highlight that their judiciary is independent. It has gone on to add that the independence of their judiciary is what will lead the decisions in these cases. However, the government is worried that the extradition case will worsen the relationship between Turkey and Greece. The relationship between Greece and Turkey can only be described as prickly at best. The countries have continued to have tensions, largely due to border disputes.

The coup took place on the 15th July. The day after, all eight, took the helicopter they seized and flew to Alexandroupolis, a city in the northern region of Greece.

The Greek asylum service has rejected the asylum request of seven of the army officers. The eighth request is still pending. The seven officers have logged appeals to have the acceptance overturned. If the appeals are rejected the army officers face deportation.