On July 15th the world stood still watching an armed forces faction attempt a coup in Turkey and the purge President Recep Tayyip Erdogan unleashed on the country the following days.
Across the narrow Aegean sea, those events were watched particularly closely. Despite their joined membership in the NATO, Greece and Turkey continue to have geopolitical disputes, oftentimes engaging in power displays and diplomatic stunts. Being a close neighbor and the European Union’s Southeast border, Greece has an undeniable interest in what goes on in Turkey.
Making things more contentious for the relationship of two countries, a helicopter with eight Turkish soldiers landed in Alexandroupolis on July 16th. The eight men have denied any involvement in the plot and have requested asylum in Greece, expressing fears for their lives if they were to be returned to Turkey. Turkey, of course, has demanded their extradition.
At this point, their fate is to be decided by the asylum committee, as they do not face criminal charges. As such, they are to be treated just like the tens of thousands of refugees that have landed on the Greek shores since last year.
If the eight soldiers can prove their case that they are in danger of brutal treatment or torture in their country, they will be, under the international law and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), granted refugee status.
Their case is significantly enhanced by President Erdogan’s response to the coup attempt. His massive purge of supposed dissidents from the military, the academia and public services has created great discomfort in the West. The expressions of support for his democratically elected government on the day of the coup have turned into dire criticism and threats of expulsion from NATO since he declared the suspension of the ECHR and his intention to reinstate the death penalty for the coup plotters.