As Greece struggles to strike a balance between international law and Turkey’s demand for the extradition of eight Turkish officers, it was confronted with a fresh challenge this week after seven civilians from the neighboring country arrived in Alexandroupoli and Rhodes late Wednesday and are expected to request asylum.
The new arrivals have been charged with illegally entering Greece.
According to officials, they include a couple, both university professors, and their two children, who arrived in Alexandroupoli, reportedly via the northeastern border, possibly crossing the Evros River by boat.
All four were said to be holding Turkish passports, though only the man’s is valid.
The other three individuals – of whom only one has a valid passport – said they are businessmen, but it was not clear how they made it to the southeastern Aegean island. One of the passports has been listed as stolen by Interpol.
Initial reports suggested they are possibly supporters of the self-exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey claims orchestrated the failed coup attempt in July.
Their case is set to put yet more strain on already tense relations between the traditional rivals after eight Turkish officers fled to Greece in the aftermath of the attempted coup.
Ankara has demanded their immediate extradition to stand trial as “traitors” and coup plotters.
Greece has said the decision will lie with its independent court.
The officers say they are requesting asylum because they fear they will be tortured or killed if they are extradited. And with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan having already publicly stated that a return of the death penalty could not be ruled out, Athens has found itself between a rock and a hard place as it seeks adhere to the dictates of Greek and international law, which forbid extraditions of people to a country where people could be tortured or executed, and its eagerness to avoid further tensions with its neighbor.