THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) — A court in northeastern Greece on Monday granted a three-day postponement in the trial of eight Turkish military personnel charged with illegally entering the country after they flew to Greece in a helicopter during a military coup in Turkey.
The court postponed their trial until Thursday. The helicopter's pilot has also been charged with violating air traffic regulations, and the other seven as accomplices to the violation. The eight — identified as two majors, four captains and two master sergeants — left court handcuffed to each other in pairs and covering their faces with towels or clothing, in the same way as they had arrived.
Turkey is seeking their return, and all eight have requested asylum in Greece. The Greek government has said their asylum applications will be examined under international law, but that the fact that they are accused in their country of participating in a coup will be taken into account.
"What must be implemented is Greek and international law," Deputy Defense Minsiter Dimitris Vitsas said on private Mega television Sunday. He said the asylum application would be examined "but I must say that the argument in favor of extradition from the Turkish side is quite strong, I would say very strong."
On Monday, Vitsas said decisions would be made by the judicial system, and noted that the examination of asylum applications "usually takes from 15 to 25 days."
A local court official said authorities there have not yet received any official extradition request from the Turkish side. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the case.
One of three lawyers for the arrested Turks, Vassiliki Ilia Marinaki, said she asked the court to intervene after her clients told her some members of the audience in the public area of the courtroom were speaking Turkish and threatening them. Police escorted some of those in the public gallery out of the room, and a police cordon was put in place between the public section and the defendants.
After their appearance, the eight were led away and will remain in detention until their Thursday trial.
"We asked for the detention of the defendants to be maintained for security reasons," Marinaki said.
The military personnel landed in Alexandroupolis Saturday in a Turkish Black Hawk helicopter after issuing a distress call and requesting permission for an emergency landing. Their lawyer, Vassiliki Ilia Marinaki, has said her clients say they knew nothing about the coup but had been instructed to transport wounded. They say that shortly after learning of the coup, they came under fire from the police and feared for their lives.