Turkey on Thursday hit back at a Greek court’s decision to grant political refugee status to two Turkish officers who fled to Greece after a 2016 failed coup, accusing Athens of protecting “terrorists.”
A group of eight Turkish officers escaped to neighboring Greece after the July 2016 attempted overthrow of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkey says they should be extradited because they are “terrorists”, but the requests were rejected by the Greek Supreme Court, stoking tensions between Ankara and Athens.
Greece’s top administrative court, the Council of State, made the decision to grant asylum on Wednesday after rejecting an appeal lodged by the Greek government.
The Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement that Greece “protects and shelters putschists” as officials strongly condemned the decision.
Turkish European Union Affairs Minister Omer Celik said the Greek legal system has “ruled to protect the terrorists who attempted a coup to overthrow Turkish democracy”.
He said the decision was the “most embarrassing ruling possible for any country”.
The top administrative Greek court on Wednesday found in favor of the co-pilot of the helicopter which flew the men over the border, and the decision also applies to another one of the men.
A Greek judicial source said the Greek government has launched an appeal against the second ruling — the result of which will apply to the next six officers.
“We hope that the Greek judiciary will refrain from repeating the same mistakes,” the Turkish foreign ministry said.
Turkey claims the soldiers are members of the movement led by US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey accuses of ordering the attempted putsch.
The eight officers deny any involvement in the coup attempt.
Relations between the two NATO allies have been further strained after the pre-trial detention of two Greek soldiers since March.
The soldiers were arrested after crossing the border into Turkey but claim they got lost in the fog. A Turkish court on Tuesday ruled the soldiers should remain in jail.
The number of Turks seeking asylum in Greece increased tenfold between 2016 and 2017, reaching 1,827.