ATHENS: A Greek court ruled Tuesday that three Turkish officers accused of playing a part in a failed July coup could be extradited to Turkey, in a case that has strained relations between the two neighbours.
The Athens appeals court said that the three — out of eight officers seeking asylum in Greece — should be sent back for “attempting to topple the regime” of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a judicial source said.
Earlier in the day, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said the Greek authorities would abide with the court rulings on the case “irrespective of the political cost.”
The ruling came a day after the same court rejected extradition for another three of the officers, deeming that Turkish authorities had not provided sufficient evidence, and that their personal safety was in jeopardy at home.
That decision outraged Ankara, which has arrested tens of thousands of people as part of a wide-ranging crackdown since the attempted putsch.
“Greece is in the NATO alliance with Turkey and is a NATO ally. Our expectation is that the Greek government make every effort to return” those individuals to Turkey, Defence Minister Fikri Isik said Monday.
The court is expected to decide the fate of the remaining two officers on Thursday.
On Tuesday, it was revealed that the court prosecutor had lodged an appeal against Monday’s ruling, arguing that the case should be heard by the Supreme Court.
Turkey may still appeal the case, and any final decision to extradite rests with the Greek minister of justice.
The two Turkish commanders, four captains and two sergeants requested asylum in Greece after landing a military helicopter in the northern city of Alexandroupoli shortly after the attempted government takeover in mid-July.
The officers are currently also appealing against a Greek refusal to grant them asylum in September.
Ankara has asked Athens to extradite them all to face trial in Turkey for their alleged role in the failed coup, including an alleged attempt on Erdogan’s life.
In Tuesday’s ruling to extradite, the court said it had not received conclusive evidence linking the three officers to an attack on Erdogan.
The eight officers say they would not receive a fair trial in Turkey, where the authorities have detained thousands of people over the coup, including top generals.
The case is awkward for Greece, which depends on Turkey to stem the flow of tens of thousands of migrants to its shores.
Several Turkish nationals, including civil servants and businessmen, have sought refuge in Greece following the coup attempt.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg last month said an unspecified number of Turkish officers serving in NATO command positions had requested asylum in those alliance member states following the botched coup on July 15.