The affair of the eight Turkish military officers who escaped to Greece by helicopter following last weekend’s failed Turkish coup is turning into an increasingly tough diplomatic issue for Athens after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Friday demanded that Greece extradite the “traitors.”
A day after Turkey suspended the European Convention on Human Rights, Cavusoglu increased the pressure on Athens by saying that the eight officers’ applications for political asylum in Greece should be rejected.
“The coup plotters are asking for political asylum,” he said. “They cannot be included under political asylum.
“What we expect from Greek authorities is that they cooperate and send these traitors back,” Cavusoglu told Turkey’s state news channel TRT.
The Greek Foreign Ministry did not comment on Cavusoglu’s remarks but sources indicated that the issue has fueled concern within the ranks of the government.
The eight Turkish military officers were on Friday moved from Kavala, where they had been in custody, to the police precinct near the Olympic Village in western Attica.
Initially, it appeared that they were moved as their asylum applications are to be examined in the capital.
However, sources indicated later in the day that their relocation was ordered by a top government official for fear of escalation of tensions in Alexandroupoli, where they attended court on Thursday, as members of the local Muslim community had staged a protest, calling them traitors.
The court in Alexandroupoli passed down two-month prison sentences to the eight officers after finding them guilty of illegally entering the country.
The sentences were suspended for three years but the officers were detained pending the outcome of their claims for political asylum.
The Greek military and coast guard remain on standby to ensure that participants in Turkey’s failed coup who remain unaccounted for do not attempt to sneak into Greece via the Aegean.
Meanwhile, top officials of the Foreign Ministry and the National Defense General Staff (GEETHA) are meeting for regular updates on the situation in the Aegean.