By Mehmet Hatipoglu
ALEXANDROUPOLI, Greece (AA) – Eight pro-coup soldiers who flew to Greece in the wake of the failed attempt to seize control in Turkey appeared in court Sunday.
The soldiers– the most senior is a colonel, according to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu — were handcuffed in pairs and dressed in civilian clothing as they arrived at court in Alexandroupoli. Some tried to hide their faces from waiting journalists.
Earlier Sunday, their lawyer Lia Marinaki said they would face charges of entering Greece illegally and “damaging friendly relations between Turkey and Greece”. “They will be sent to the prosecutor today,” she told Anadolu Agency. “Then the judicial process will begin. Under normal circumstances, the process could take a year. It is certain that they do not want to go back to Turkey, they are afraid of execution.”
Late Saturday, a diplomatic source said the Black Hawk helicopter used in the escape had been returned to Turkey. It was received by the Turkish military and left Alexandroupoli at 11:30 p.m. local time (2030GMT) accompanied by two other Turkish helicopters, the source said on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on speaking to the media.
It had arrived at Alexandroupoli airport, not far from the Greek-Turkish border around midday Saturday.
Cavusoglu tweeted that Turkey had requested the “immediate surrender of the eight traitor soldiers”.
“On Saturday morning a Turkish military helicopter sent an S.O.S. while entering Greek airspace and asked permission for an emergency landing,” Greek government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili said.
The occupants were arrested and claimed political asylum.
Speaking to reporters following a special session of parliament on Saturday evening, Cavusoglu had said he received a telephone call from his Greek counterpart Nikos Kotzias in which they discussed the attempted coup as well as the soldiers in Greece.
“They will expedite the extradition process,” he said. “God willing, we will bring those traitors to Turkey and surrender them to justice.”
*Magda Panoutsopoulou in Athens and Handan Kazanci in Istanbul contributed to this report.