Turkish servicemen could be tried in Greece, minister says


Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis left open the possibility on Thursday that the eight Turkish servicemen who fled to Greece following a failed coup in Turkey in the summer of 2016 could be tried in Greece.

“The possibility of them being tried here for crimes committed abroad is being explored,” Kontonis told a press conference on Thursday, in what was seen as a bid to defuse tensions with Ankara over the issue.

He added that a provision in Greece’s legal code could allow such a trial. However, senior justice officials have told Kathimerini that there may be difficulties in compiling a case against the servicemen and in examining witnesses.

“The prime minister has said that they should have a fair trial,” Kontonis added, referring to comments made by Alexis Tsipras last month during a visit to Greece by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

With regard to the two demands made by Ankara for their extradition to face justice in their homeland, Kontonis said this issue “has closed,” echoing the statements of government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos.

“The decision by the Supreme Court is respected absolutely by us all,” he said, referring to a ruling last January rejecting Ankara’s demand for the eight men’s extradition.

“I do not understand why certain legal quarters are bringing it up again,” Kontonis said, adding that the case is in the hands of the justice system.

“It’s a lot of fuss over nothing,” he said.

The minister’s comments came a few days after a legal committee decided to grant asylum to one of the eight Turkish servicemen – the copilot of the helicopter that flew them to Greece – prompting an angry response from Ankara.

Tsipras’s office subsequently sought to block the asylum decision, a move that was widely seen as bowing to pressure from Ankara.

But Greek officials insist that, irrespective of rulings regarding asylum, the men will not be extradited, in accordance with the Supreme Court’s decision.