July 19, 2016 / 2:36 PM / 3 years ago

Soldiers who fled to Greece would have a fair trial in Turkey: ambassador

ATHENS (Reuters) - Turkey’s ambassador to Athens said on Tuesday the Turkish soldiers who fled to Greece by helicopter after the weekend coup attempt would have a fair and transparent trial at home, and it would not help bilateral ties if Athens did not return them.

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 brought to prosecutor by two policemen in the northern Greek city of Alexandroupolis, Greece, July 17, 2016. REUTERS/Vasilis Ververidis/Eurokinissi

The eight men, who have sought political asylum in Greece, landed in the city of Alexandroupolis on Saturday. They were arrested and charged with crossing into the country illegally.

Turkey has branded them “traitors” and asked Greece to extradite them. Their lawyers say the men fear for their lives in Turkey and do not want to be returned.

“They will face a fair trial,” Ambassador Kerim Uras told journalists. “We want this as always to be transparent ... in line with international standards.”

He later added: “It’s not in the state’s interests to do this (trial) behind closed doors.”

But he also said: “I hope we will manage to swiftly go through the phases of the due process and manage to return these terrorist elements so that they will face justice in Turkey.”

Since the coup attempt crumbled on Saturday, the Turkish government has launched a purge of the armed forces and judiciary, rounding up thousands.

Asked what the consequences would be if judges decided not to return the soldiers to Turkey, Uras said their swift return would be a positive development but if not that would not help bilateral relations.

“If they are returned as soon as possible this can really turn into a very positive thing in our bilateral relations,” he said. “If it’s not, I would be quite concerned as an ambassador. And I must say this, that it would not help at all.”

Relations between Greece and Turkey have warmed in recent years but they have a long history of enmity and a longstanding dispute over territorial borders in the Aegean, with warplanes from both sides regularly engaging in mock dog fights.

Territorial disputes almost provoked a war between the NATO allies in 1996 over tiny uninhabited islets.

Reporting by Renee Maltezou; Writing by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Hugh Lawson

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