Not sending back officers will be bad for ties, Turkish envoy says

Not sending back officers will be bad for ties, Turkish envoy says

Turkey’s ambassador in Athens, Kerim Uras, on Tuesday urged the return of eight Turkish officers who fled Turkey to Greece on Saturday following a failed coup, saying failure to send them back would harm bilateral relations.

The officers’ return to Turkey would be “positive for bilateral relations.” “If not, it will not help at all,” he said, adding that “it was a mistake to accept these people in the first place.”

“What would you think if there were a similar coup in Greece… and Turkey were harboring eight of your military people? I think needless to say, you would not be very happy,” said Uras.

Following suggestions by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that the death penalty could be reinstated for participants in the attempted coup, Uras was asked by Kathimerini whether the eight officers could face the death penalty in Turkey. The envoy responded that “this is an ongoing discussion” and that “there is strong pressure from the people that this penalty be reinstated.” However, he said his view was that the death penalty would not be reinstated and in any case could not be applied retroactively.

The officers are to appear in a Greek court on Thursday on charges of illegal entry into Greece and violating Greek air space. However, they have lodged applications for political asylum that are expected to take at least two weeks to process. “I hope we will manage to swiftly go through the phases of due process and to return these terrorist elements so that they will face justice,” Uras said.

The ambassador refuted reports suggesting that the officers would have no chance of justice in Turkey. “They will face a fair trial. It will be totally transparent,” he said.

Uras also rebuffed reports according to which 14 Turkish navy vessels are missing. “We know where all our military equipment is,” he said.

The ambassador provided updated figures on the fallout of the thwarted coup in Turkey. A total of 208 people have died, including 60 police officers, with 1,491 injured, he said. A total of 7,543 people have been detained including 6,038 military staff. Authorities have suspended 2,745 judges and prosecutors and 8,777 Interior Ministry staff, Uras added.

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