- Associated Press - Friday, January 13, 2017

ATHENS, Greece (AP) - A prosecutor at Greece’s Supreme Court argued in a hearing Friday against extraditing the last four of eight Turkish servicemen who fled by military helicopter to Greece after last year’s failed coup.

Nikos Pandelis told judges that they faced “no alternative” but to reject the Turkish extradition request on human rights grounds, as the men would not receive a fair trial in Turkey.

In separate sessions at the same court this week, other prosecutors have recommended rejecting the extradition demands for the other four, using similar arguments. All eight men deny Turkish allegations that they were involved in the July 15 military attempt to seize power.

The court is expected to issue its verdict on all the servicemen on Jan. 23. The prosecutors’ recommendations are not binding, but even if judges accept the extradition demand Greece’s justice minister would have the power to block it.

The case has complicated relations between Greece and its larger neighbor amid talks on reuniting the island of Cyprus, whose Greek and Turkish communities have been divided since a Turkish invasion in 1974.

It has also embarrassed Greece’s left-wing government, which initially signaled it would return the eight, as they were accused of trying to overthrow Turkey’s elected leadership. Respected public figures have rigorously defended the men’s right to asylum in Greece.

In a joint statement to The Associated Press Friday, the eight men cited threats they had received from Turkish officials, and spoke of the dire conditions in Turkish prisons.

“We wouldn’t have a fair trial,” the statement said. “There have been many suicides in Turkish jails, and there is constant talk of bringing back the death penalty.”

Turkey’s finance minister said that if we return to Turkey we will be placed in five-foot (1.5-meter) cells, and that we will beg for death,” the statement said.

The men added that their families in Turkey have been victimized, with their wives losing their jobs and health care access and having their bank accounts seized.

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