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Greece Returns Turkish Helicopter after Failed Coup Attempt | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Caption: Greek police vehicles next to a Turkish military helicopter at Alexandroupolis airport, after it landed there carrying eight officers seeking asylum after a coup bid in Turkey, on July 16, 2016 (AFP Photo/)

Athens-Greek authorities returned Turkish Black Hawk with eight crew members that landed at Alexandroupolis airport. The helicopter was accompanied by another Turkish helicopter.

Men on board the helicopter requested political asylum in Greece after a failed coup attempt last Friday, but Turkey demanded their extradition.

Greek security forces transported the eight men to the Justice Palace in Alexandroupolis on a police shuttle. The men were chained together and tried to hide their faces from the cameras.

Attorney of four of the eight Turkish men said that they sought political asylum fearing their lives would be in danger in Turkey. Ilia Marinaki, said that her clients were following orders to transport injured men from the streets of Istanbul.

She added that they didn’t know about the coup and they all have families and children in Turkey.

Another lawyer said that they can’t be returned to Turkey for the fear of capital punishment.

Sources reported that asylum request takes up to 2 to 3 weeks to be granted or denied. They added that things usually take up to a year to be finalized and the eight military officers would have to be detained until the request is considered.

Based on Greek law, the eight Turkish men will be charged for cases of illegal entry into the country and jeopardizing Greece’s friendly relationship with Turkey.

During a phone call, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan the asylum-request procedure will be swift.

Tsipras added that “international law and human rights will be fully respected.”

Greek government spokesperson Olga Gerovasili said that the Greek authorities have communicated with their Turkish counterparts to arrange the swift return of the Turkish helicopter. As for the asylum request, Gerovasili said that it will follow the legal procedures until a decision has been made.

The copter first appeared on Saturday and authorities said it transmitted a distress signal that cited mechanical failure. After it landed in the Greek airport, the military leaders requested political asylum.

Sources said the eight men included three majors, three captains, and two privates who removed all badges and insignia from their uniforms, making it initially hard to know their rank.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias said that it is not necessary for Athens to return the eight men involved who fled to Greece. He added that Greece will examine the asylum requests, as required by international law.

Kotzias said,“However, it will be taken into account seriously that, in their country, they are accused of violating the constitutional order and attempting to overthrow the democratic regime.”

Meanwhile, Greek Deputy Defence Minister Dimitris Vitsas said the eight men will be examined according to Greek and international laws.

Vitsas said, “The eight men had attempted to illegally topple the democratically elected Turkish by a coup and therefore the Turkish argument that they should be sent back to Turkey to stand trial was well-founded.”