It is the third time Greece has turned down an extradition request for the eight Turkish soldiers, who fled to the country after aborting an attempt to overthrow the Turkish government on July 15, 2016.

Two of the eight Turkish soldiers, who fled to Greece in a helicopter and requested political asylum after a failed military coup against the government, are escorted by police officers as they leave the appeals court in Athens, Greece, on March 16, 2018.
Two of the eight Turkish soldiers, who fled to Greece in a helicopter and requested political asylum after a failed military coup against the government, are escorted by police officers as they leave the appeals court in Athens, Greece, on March 16, 2018. (Reuters)

A Greek appeals court on Friday rejected a Turkish demand for the handover of eight Turkish soldiers having played a direct role in the abortive coup against the Turkish government in 2016.

It was the third extradition request Greek courts have refused, an issue which has further strained relations between the long uneasy NATO allies. The Greek court said it had concerns the eight would not face a fair trial in Turkey.

The group fled to Greece in a helicopter on July 16, 2016, as the coup attempt crumbled in the face of massive popular outcry from civilian demonstrators, who took to the streets in defence of their government. 

An outlawed network led by US-based businessman and congregation leader Fetullah Gulen, dubbed Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), orchestrated the coup attempt. The group was also working to undermine democracy in Turkey by infiltrating Turkish state institutions including the army, the police and judiciary for a number of decades.

In a unanimous decision, the Athens-based Court of Appeal rejected Turkey's extradition request, filed on the basis of eight charges the soldiers face in their country.

Those charges included involvement in the coup, attempted murder, participation in an armed terrorist group, military desertion and theft of military material.

In its verdict, the court said the charges were vague and had introduced no new elements to materially sway earlier verdicts.

"In each case there are valid concerns of an unfair trial, and the risk of facing torture and humiliating behaviour," a court official said, citing the verdict.

The decision can be appealed.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies