NEWS

Court ruling stirs Turkey tension

TAGS: Diplomacy, Justice, Turkey

Greek-Turkish relations took a turn for the worse on Wednesday, with the Turkish Foreign Ministry and other senior officials accusing Athens of violating the Geneva Convention and of protecting terrorists.

The tension followed Tuesday’s publication of a ruling by the Council of State in May, which granted asylum to one of eight servicemen that Ankara claims took part in the botched coup in 2016.

According to the ruling, Suleyman Ozkaynakci, the man who piloted the helicopter in which he and seven other officers arrived in Greece, could be eligible to receive travel documents.

The Council of State said that there was no evidence linking the serviceman to the coup and to the Islamic organization FETO run by the cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in self-exile in the United States and is accused by Ankara of being behind the plot.

The ruling could set a precedent for the cases of the seven other Turkish soldiers. 

“This decision not only breaches Greece’s international obligations to combat terrorism, but also constitutes a violation of the provisions of the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said. It also denounced the Council of State for ignoring an appeal by the Greek state against the granting of asylum to Ozkaynakci.

However, it was the Geneva Convention that the Council of State cited in its decision, concluding that Ozkaynakci could face persecution in Turkey over the political beliefs ascribed to him by Ankara.

But in a tweet on Wednesday, Omer Celik, the spokesman for Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), accused the Greek judiciary of protecting “coup plotter terrorists,” while Ibrahim Kalin, the spokesperson for the Turkish Presidency, said the “scandalous” decision should be condemned by the European Union. 

Remarking later in the day on Celik’s comments on his Twitter account, conservative New Democracy’s shadow foreign minister Giorgos Koumoutsakos rebuffed the suggestion that Greek justice is not independent and democratic. 

“Mr Celik and the Turkish side in general must finally grasp that institutions in Greece operate on the basis of fundamental democratic principles,” Koumoutsakos wrote. “There is no need for Greek-Turkish relations to be poisoned by such unfounded reactions.”

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