Turkish envoy urges swift return of coup asylum seekers from Greece

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Greek police vehicles encircle a Turkish military helicopter at Alexandroupolis airport on July 16, 2016 after it landed carrying eight officers seeking asylum after a coup bid in Turkey

Greek police vehicles encircle a Turkish military helicopter at Alexandroupolis airport on July 16, 2016 after it landed carrying eight officers seeking asylum after a coup bid in Turkey (AFP Photo/)

Athens (AFP) - Turkey's ambassador on Tuesday urged Greece to swiftly return eight military officers who fled across the border after last week's failed coup, warning the affair could harm bilateral relations.

If the affair "is resolved swiftly and they are returned as swiftly as possible, that could turn into something very positive for our bilateral relations," Turkish ambassador Kerim Uras told reporters in Athens.

"But if that's not the case, I fear it will not help at all, and that the public mood (in Turkey) will be affected," Uras said.

"I hope we will manage to swiftly go through the phases of due process and manage to return these terrorist elements so that they will face justice," he added.

The eight men, who arrived by military helicopter on Saturday after sending a distress signal to authorities at the airport in the northern city of Alexandroupolis, are to face trial for illegal entry on Thursday.

"I think it was a mistake to accept them in the first place," the ambassador said, arguing that Greek authorities could have asked the helicopter to land near a Turkish facility.

According to their lawyer, Ilia Marinaki, the Turkish soldiers -- two commanders, four captains and two sergeants -- fear for their safety and that of their families after the failed coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

They claim to have been fled after being fired upon by police.

To block their deportation to Turkey, they have applied for asylum in Greece.

Uras bristled at the suggestion that the officers would not be treated fairly at home.

"We take offence at such reporting because needless to say, they will face a fair trial. It will be totally transparent," he said.

But he added that legal cooperation between both states was good and "we have full confidence in the Greek judicial system."

A mass crackdown by Turkish authorities on instigators of Saturday's attempted coup has fuelled fears Ankara may enact harsh retribution and even reintroduce the death penalty, abolished in 2004.

But Uras said he "personally" believed that would not happen as it is a "fundamental law that the law cannot be applied retrospectively."

Turkish authorities have detained over 7,500 people so far in a massive legal crackdown, and some suspects were paraded before the media and shown being subjected to rough treatment.

Greek daily Ethnos on Tuesday splashed a front-page picture of dozens of semi-naked men, their hands tied behind their back, held in what appears to be a gynnasium.

"West blasts Erdogan pogrom," it said.

Historic foes, Greece and Turkey both became members of NATO in 1952 and ties have improved drastically in recent years although there are irritants such as airspace and maritime border disputes.

Greece last year also faulted Turkey for allowing thousands of mainly Syrian refugees and migrants to sail to its shores, before an EU deal stemming the flow came into force in March.