The ruling by Greece’s highest court against extraditing eight Turkish soldiers, accused of taking active part in the July 15 coup attempt, is bound to cause serious turbulence between the two neighbours.
The eight men in question, who had fled to northern Greece on July 16 by helicopter, are accused of taking active part in the coup attempt, using violence and trying to assassinate President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The Greek Supreme Court has decided that sending the eight officers would curtail their fundamental human rights, as they would be unlikely to receive a fair trial.
The court’s ruling is final and cannot be appealed.
As predicted, Turkey’s response was immediate and furious.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry protested and called it a politically motivated decision, in violation of international law.
It said that Turkey would continue to use all legal instruments against this decision. The statement also made it clear that there would be some implications on bilateral relations, cooperation against terrorism, and other unspecified matters.
Following the Greek decision, a court in Istanbul has issued arrest warrants in absentia and asked the Justice Ministry to request an Interpol red notice.
It is not yet clear what other “legal instruments” are available to Turkey after the ruling by Greece’s highest court. It is unlikely that the Greek Justice Minister would ignore the court and take a political decision to send the airmen back.
Turkey may resort to diplomatic pressure on the Greek government. Greeks are worried that Turkey may use the “refugee card”, opening the joint border to large numbers of asylum seekers.
The Cyprus negotiations are at a critical stage, and Turkey may pull some levers there.
In any case, Mr. Erdogan is very likely to respond even more strongly than the Foreign Ministry. Turkish public reaction will be angry, too.
Greece is not like any other country. It has a dubious record of sheltering fugitives from Turkey. In 1999, the PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan was captured in Kenya, while being sheltered by the Greek Embassy.
Since then, Turkish-Greek relations have come a long way.
This latest crisis may prove to be almost as damaging as the Ocalan episode.
In Greece, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, is facing considerable domestic pressure of his own.
A recent poll suggested that more than 60% of Greeks were opposed to sending the airmen to Turkey.
Mr. Tsipras was also urged by his European Union partners to uphold European values.
Those objecting to extradition to Turkey point to long detention periods before trials and the suspects’ lack of access to their lawyers.
Under an emergency rule and with well-documented rights violations under the European Convention of Human Rights, Turkey would have a battle in its hands to get heard anywhere in Europe. .
The July 15 coup attempt was, vile, violent and anti-democratic. Turkey has every legitimate right to bring perpetrators to justice whereever they happen to be.
Yet, with tens of thousands of people in its jails awaiting trial, independence of the judiciary undermined, separation of powers ignored, the number of lawsuits landing at the European Court of Human Rights growing every day, and with the scenes of an extradited fashion designer, Barbaros Sansal, being attacked in Istanbul airport, at the stairs of a Turkish Airlines plane by airport luggage handlers, it is becoming increasingly harder to argue Turkey’s case.
This post is also available in: Turkish