Turkey has officially requested the extradition of eight military officers who fled to Greece by helicopter and sought asylum there after July’s failed coup attempt.
Foreign ministry officials in Athens said they had received the request and passed it on to the Greek justice ministry for consideration, state radio reported on Thursday.
On July 15, a faction of Turkey’s military tried to topple the government in a night of clashes that left more than 270 people dead. The government quickly crushed the attempted coup attempt and has since purged tens of thousands from the state’s military and judicial branches.
The absconding soldiers – two majors, four captains and two sergeants – fled in a military helicopter in the hours after the attempted coup to the Greek port city of Alexandroupolis, near the Turkish border, and immediately applied for asylum.
Ankara stressed in the formal extradition request that the soldiers tried to overthrow the government, according to the state radio report. The eight deny involvement in the failed coup attempt.
The troops’ asylum hearings are to begin on Friday, when two of the officers are scheduled to appear before a committee.
In late July, the court of Alexandroupolis sentenced eight – who face a military trial in their homeland if sent back – to suspended two-month prison terms for illegal entry.
The men were subsequently relocated to Athens and are in police custody until their asylum applications are heard, a process expected to take a month.
The eight claim they will not receive a fair trial in Turkey, where the authorities have detained thousands of people over the coup, including top generals.
If sent home, their lives could be in danger, one of their lawyers has claimed.
Rights group Amnesty International has said it has “credible evidence” of the abuse and torture of people detained in sweeping post-coup arrests – something Ankara has denied.
The case threatens to strain ties between the uneasy NATO allies, with Ankara labelling the eight “terrorists”.