Greek court puts asylum for Turkish soldier on hold

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Greek court puts asylum for Turkish soldier on holdTurkey is one of the main Mediterranean competitors of the Greek tourism industry and has been hit strongly by terrorism and political instability culminating in numerous coup attempts during recent years

ATHENS – On a request from the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition, an administrative court on Jan. 8 froze asylum given a Turkish soldier who was one of eight who landed in Greece after fleeing a failed coup attempt in which they said they took no part.

The temporary hold was granted after the court accepted an appeal by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who rival parties said is paving the way for the men to be sent back to appease Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan even though their lawyer said they face torture or worse.

Greece’s highest court had earlier ruled against extradition for the men but Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis, in what was seed as another nod to Erdogan, said they could be tried in Greece even though they hadn’t committed any crimes here.

Tsipras, who critics said is fearful Erdogan will flood Greek islands with more refugees and immigrants, wants the asylum overturned and for none of the others to be granted as well, that would leave them in limbo.

Government lawyers said granting asylum would hurt relations between the countries even though the men’s lives could be at stake, essentially admitting that politics was more important. A final decision is due Feb. 15.

Lawyers representing the Turkish serviceman said asylum was warranted and can’t be overturned by any court but the government is pressing the case anyway, in the wake of Erdogan’s visit to Athens in December and claim Tsipras promised the men would be turned over to Turkey. The men’s lawyers though said the Greek state must protect people fleeing persecution and torture.

The Greek government was represented by the State Legal Council while the Turkish serviceman was represented by the Greek Council for Refugees.

The mess comes as Tsipras, reeling in polls after reneging on anti-austerity promises, is trying to mend fences and cool tension with Turkey, which regularly sends fighter jets into Greek airspace and warships past Greek islands.

There are fears that if the court ultimately rules in favor of asylum for the serviceman, and his seven fellow soldiers, Greece will come under intense pressure from Erdogan, Kathimerini said.

If the asylum applications are rejected, it is almost certain that the eight men will appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, taking much of the pressure off Greece and Tsipras.

On a visit to the Aegean island of Kalymnos, Tsipras extended a message of “cooperation, peace and friendship” toward Turkey but expressed Greece’s “decisiveness as regards the defense of its sovereign rights as set out in international treaties.”

Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, head of the coalition partner the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL), who usually barks at Turkey over provocations, has stayed mum in the wake of expectations he will back down from demands that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) not be allowed to use the name Macedonia in any composite name after saying he would never relent.

Read more here.

RELATED TOPICS: GreeceGreek tourism newsTourism in GreeceGreek islandsHotels in GreeceTravel to GreeceGreek destinations Greek travel marketGreek tourism statisticsGreek tourism report

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