UPDATE – Helicopter carrying coup supporters returning to Turkey


By Furkan Naci Top

ATHENS (AA) – A military helicopter used by eight coup supporters to flee to Greece is being returned to Turkey, diplomatic sources confirmed late Saturday.

The Black Hawk helicopter that was received by Turkish Army Forces left at 11.30 (2000GMT) for Turkey, according to sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Earlier Saturday, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tweeted that Turkey had “requested the immediate surrender of the eight traitor soldiers who fled to Greece with a helicopter.”

Greek police said the helicopter landed at the Alexandroupoli airport near the Greek-Turkish border, at around 11.50 a.m. local time (0850GMT).

“On Saturday morning a Turkish military helicopter sent an SOS while entering Greek airspace and asked permission for emergency landing,” Greek government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili said.

The eight occupants were arrested and claimed political asylum.

The coup supporters will face accusations of “illegal entry” and “damaging the friendly relation between Turkey and Greece”, according to Lia Marinaki, a lawyer of the soldiers. “They will be sent to the prosecutor today. Then judicial process will begin,” she said. “Under normal circumstances, the process could take a year. It is certain that they do not want to back to Turkey, they are afraid of execution,” Marinaki told Anadolu Agency.

“Authorities responsible for asylum will examine the helicopter passengers’ request for political asylum in Greece,” the Greek General Staff said in a statement.

Cavusoglu later said a colonel was the highest-ranking officer of the eight soldiers.

Speaking to reporters following a special session of parliament, Cavusoglu said he received a telephone call from his Greek counterpart, Nikos Kotzias, in which they discussed developments concerning the attempted coup as well as the soldiers who attempted to flee to Greece.

“They will expedite the extradition process,” he said, adding, “God willing, we will bring those traitors to Turkey and surrender them to justice.”

During the call, Kotzias reiterated Athens’ condemnation of the attempted coup and stressed that the issue would be examined by the Greek government, which would follow the relevant procedures under international law, according to a Greek foreign ministry statement,

Kotzias said the fact that the suspects are facing charges for violating the constitutional order and attempting to dismantle the nation’s democracy will be taken under very serious consideration, the statement said.

*Magda Panoutsopoulou contributed to this report from Athens and Burcu Arik contributed from Istanbul.