Europe

Turkey coup plot: Troops who fled to Greece sentenced

A Greek police officer escorts a Turkish officer who fled to Greece by helicopter after last week's failed coup (21 July 2016) Image copyright AFP
Image caption Each of the eight soldiers was escorted to court individually on Thursday

Eight soldiers who fled Turkey after the failed coup attempt have been found guilty of entering Greece illegally and given two-month suspended sentences.

A lawyer for the group said they had not taken part in the uprising, and had fled to Greece by military helicopter after being shot at by Turkish police.

They arrived in Greece the day after the attempted takeover.

The soldiers are applying for asylum and will be interviewed by the Greek authorities next week.

They are to remain in prison until their cases are heard.

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Turkey has demanded the immediate extradition of the men - three majors, three captains and two sergeant-majors - who it says are "traitors" and "terrorist elements".

One of the soldiers told the court they were afraid to go back to Turkey because of the "indiscriminate arrests" being carried out in the aftermath of the coup.

Their lawyers said the soldiers had not realised a coup was under way when they followed orders to collect the wounded.

They decided to escape from Turkey when their Black Hawk helicopter came under fire by police on the ground, the lawyers said.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Thursday's court hearing was attended by lawyers from Turkey
Image copyright EPA
Image caption The Black Hawk helicopter landed at Alexandroupoli airport on 16 July but is now back in Turkey

The BBC's Bethany Bell in Greece says while the helicopter has been returned to Turkey, the fate of the soldiers is much more complicated.

Our correspondent says the case puts Greece in a difficult position.

Diplomatically speaking, extraditing the soldiers would probably be the easiest option for Greece, which does not want to upset relations with Turkey.

But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's comments about the possibility of reintroducing the death penalty may have changed matters.

The Turkish authorities have launched a major purge of the armed forces, judiciary, civil service and the education system, rounding up thousands, since the abortive coup.