ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece’s supreme court has cleared the way for the granting of asylum to eight Turkish servicemen who fled their country hours after an abortive military coup two years ago in a case that has heightened tensions between the two regional rivals.
Omiros Zelios, a lawyer representing the eight, said Thursday that judges rejected a challenge by the Greek government against an earlier decision granting asylum to the first of the eight.
His asylum had been suspended pending hearing of the government appeal, and will be reactivated once Wednesday’s ruling is formally published.
The supreme court ruling is expected to apply to the other seven, too. “This is obligatory by law,” Zelios said.
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All eight deny Turkish claims that they participated in the coup plot. Greek courts have refused to extradite them, saying they would not get a fair trial in Turkey and that their lives would be in danger there. That drew an angry response from Turkey.
The man whose case the supreme court ruled on has been released from police custody but is living in a secret location under heavy police guard.
Zelios, the lawyer, said that while his clients have not yet decided what to do once they get their asylum status and travel documents, they would consider leaving Greece for another country in order to defuse tension with Turkey.
“They believe that their presence (in Greece) creates tension with Turkey, and as they do not want to be involved in political and diplomatic games, for them to go to another neutral country to rebuild their lives seems a reasonable and prudent option,” he told The Associated Press.
Lawyer Nikos Alivizatos, who represents one of the eight, told the AP that Greek authorities are expected to rule on the other Turks’ asylum applications by the autumn.
But he expressed fears as to their potential status after gaining asylum, as Turkey would probably seek their extradition from whatever country they end up in.
“Wherever they go, I’m afraid that they will have problems, based on the warrants Turkey has issued” for their arrest, he said.