Date posted: December 19, 2017
A group of 33 Turks, including academics, doctors and civil servants, are seeking political asylum in Greece for fear of persecution at home.
It is the biggest mass defection since eight servicemen hijacked a military helicopter and fled to Greece after a botched coup in Turkey last year, straining already tense relations between Athens and Ankara. Politicians fear increased tensions.
Greek officials said the group of 33 posed as migrants, crossing the Aegean Sea in rubber rafts from the coastal city of Izmir and “expressed their intent for political asylum” after landing on the island of Oinousses.
Local media said that the Turkish smugglers who had helped them also requested asylum because they feared reprisals. The group of 33 are believed to be supporters of the Hizmet movement, led by the US-based cleric Fethulla Gülen, whom President Erdogan has blamed for the attempted coup.
Since the coup dozens of Turks have fled to Greece with defections peaking after a referendum in April that expanded the president’s powers. On a visit to Athens last week, Mr Erdogan, said that Greece must hand over the eight servicemen despite a court blocking their extradition. He accused the Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, of backing down on a promise to return them to face trial in Turkey for treason.
Mr Erdogan said: “If you leave it up to the judiciary there will be no result.”
EU and Greek law forbids extradition to a country where a person would be at risk of torture — a claim repeatedly argued by the eight servicemen.
Officials said that Greece had yet to receive any “formal or informal request” to return the latest defectors.
Source: The Times , December 18, 2917