Turkish coup suspects in Greece win asylum case delay

A Greek police officer escorts a Turkish officer who fled to Greece after the failed coup in Turkey, as he leaves a courthouse on July 21, 2016 (AFP Photo/Sakis Mitrolidis)

Athens (AFP) - Eight Turkish military officers who fled the failed coup to Greece have been given more time to press their asylum claims, their lawyer said on Wednesday.

Vassilis Terzidis told AFP that the men "fear for their lives" if they are returned to Turkey, where the authorities have been waging a massive crackdown against suspects in the July 15 military coup bid.

"Given the very volatile situation in Turkey the eight soldiers wish to wait and better prepare (their case)," he said.

The eight men -- two commanders, four captains and two sergeants -- requested asylum in Greece after landing a military helicopter in the northern city of Alexandroupoli four days after the attempted government takeover.

Last Thursday, a Greek court sentenced the eight -- who face a military trial in their homeland if sent back -- to suspended two-month prison terms for illegal entry.

They will remain in police custody in Greece until their asylum applications are heard.

A first ruling had been expected in early August but now they have been summoned to a hearing on August 19, said Terzidis.

The eight claim they will not receive a fair trial in Turkey, where the authorities have detained thousands of people over the coup, including top generals.

Rights group Amnesty International has said it has "credible evidence" of the abuse and torture of people detained in sweeping post-coup arrests -- something Ankara has denied.

Terzidis also referred to the possibility of Turkey restoring the death penalty in the wake of the attempted coup.

"That will be another argument in their favour for the international protection they are requesting," he said.

The case threatens to strain ties between the uneasy NATO allies, with Ankara labelling the eight "terrorists".