Turkish military officers (Center, In Suits), escorted by Greek police, arrive at the Supreme Court in Athens, Greece, on Jan. 26, 2017. Greece's Supreme Court ruled on Thursday against the extradition of the eight Turkish military officers who fled to Greece in a helicopter after a failed military coup in July, Greek national news agency AMNA reported. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)
by Maria Spiliopoulou
ATHENS, Jan. 26 (Xinhua)-- Greece's Supreme Court rejected on Thursday Ankara's extradition request for the eight Turkish military officers who fled to Greece in a helicopter after a failed military coup in July last year.
The verdict which closed the curtain in a marathon legal battle that had attracted international attention met with mixed reactions in Greece and Turkey.
"The Supreme Court found that the possibility of trespassing on the rights of the individuals involved, regardless of their degree of guilt or the seriousness of their offences, did not allow the implementation of extradition measures, which were superseded by the greater importance of rules protecting human rights," Greek national news agency AMNA reported.
Turkey had submitted an extradition request, alleging that the servicemen were involved in the July 15 coup attempt.
All eight defendants had denied any role in the coup attempt and requested asylum, claiming that their safety would be in danger at home and should they be returned they would not face a fair trial.
Thursday's ruling is regarded as final and irreversible, according to the Greek law. Should the Court had ruled in favor of the extradition request, the final decision would rest with Greek Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis.
Speaking to Greek media earlier this week, the minister had said that the government would respect the defendants' right to refer to the European Court of Human Rights.
In December, Athens appeal courts had delivered mixed verdicts to extradite five and not extradite the other three.
During January's hearings before the Supreme Court, all three prosecutors had argued against the extradition.
The Greek lawyers representing the eight men welcomed the final verdict on Thursday, explaining that now the Turkish officers were expected to be released soon.
"It was a great victory for European values and the Greek justice. It was not only the lives of the eight which were at stake, but also the dignity of the Greek justice system," Christos Milonopoulos told Xinhua and other media outside the court.
The eight defendants expressed via Milonopoulos on Thursday their gratitude to Greek people for their support.
Greek political parties, law experts and intellectuals had campaigned against the extradition.
"We believe in Justice. We believe in Democracy," commented Andreas Loverdos, a socialist MP, on social media.
According to media reports, the Turkish side has been angered by the decision. The Turkish foreign ministry said the ties between the two countries would be reviewed.
Turkey would "use all avenues of law" to make sure the soldiers' extradition and prosecution, it added.
The Greek government has yet to comment on Thursday's verdict. Greek media noted that the ruling may have broader repercussions on bilateral cooperation between the two neighboring countries.