ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A Greek court on Thursday rejected Turkey’s extradition request for the last two of eight Turkish servicemen who fled to Greece after a failed July military coup, their lawyer said.
The decision is the third in the case, which now sees extradition requests denied for five of the helicopter crewmen, and approved for the other three.
The conflicting rulings have added to tension between the two NATO allies, which have longstanding disputes over boundaries in the Aegean Sea.
Greece has become increasingly concerned over statements by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Athens regards as challenges to the international treaties that delineated Greek-Turkish borders.
“We cannot let (statements) by extreme elements go unanswered, like Erdogan, who has turned into a brutal dictator,” Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos told private Real FM radio Thursday.
“If your neighbor says ‘I like your wife and I’m coming to take her,’ then you have to answer,” Kammenos elaborated.
The court’s ruling Thursday came two days after a different set of judges ruled the opposite way, approving the extradition of three of the servicemen. The extradition request for the first three also was denied.
Turkish officials have stressed their government’s interest in seeing all eight returned.
“Our expectation is for Greek officials to extradite these coup-plotting soldiers to Turkey as soon as possible … for these people to face justice in Turkey,” Turkey’s presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said moments before Thursday’s ruling.
All eight helicopter crewmen deny participating in the coup attempt and an alleged plot to assassinate Erdogan. They flew to Greece on a military helicopter the day after the coup and maintain they would not have a fair trial in Turkey.
In a joint statement released by a member of their legal team, the eight men expressed “deep joy” at Thursday’s ruling.
“We are confident that finally justice will prevail,” the statement said. “We and our families wish to thank all Greeks for their sympathy and support.”
The three whose extradition was approved have appealed that decision, while a prosecutor has also appealed the second court decision rejecting the extradition for the other three. All appeals would be heard by Greece’s Supreme Court.
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