Eight Turkish soldiers who fled to Greece by helicopter after the failed coup have been handed suspended prison terms for illegal entry. They remain in custody pending asylum hearings, with Ankara demanding extradition.
A court in Greece’s northern city of Alexandroupoli imposed suspended two-month jail terms Thursday on eight military officers who fled Turkey last Saturday in a high-tech Black Hawk helicopter.
The court acknowledged mitigating circumstances of having acted while under threat. The pilot was acquitted of a charge of violating flight regulations.
The eight are to remain in Greek police custody until their applications for asylum are heard in August.
The case has strained ties between Greece and Turkey, two NATO allies, with Ankara demanding the officers’ return. Turkey has already recovered its aircraft.
One of the Turkish officers told the Alexandroupoli court that the group feared “indiscriminate” arrests if handed over to Turkish authorities.
Another said: “I would not have left Turkey had my life not been threatened.”
Brought to court Thursday, they kept their faces hidden and declined to give their names. On arrival they were identified by rank as two commanders, four captains and two sergeants.
The court hearing preceded a post-coup sitting of the Turkish parliament. President Tayyip Erdogan was expected to ask lawmakers to endorse sweeping new powers to expand a crackdown.
Already, some 10,000 have been arrested. More than 58,000 civil service employees have been dismissed, forced to resign or have had their licenses revoked.
ipj/kl (AP, AFP, dpa)