Facing an avalanche of criticism from rights groups over his decision to challenge the asylum granted to a Turkish officer accused of taking part in the coup against Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Migration Minister Nikos Mouzalas justified his move on the basis of “indications” that the eight officers who fled to Greece by helicopter after the coup also took part in it.

“There are tenable indications that they participated in the coup,” Mouzalas told private Skai television in Greece.

Justifying his move to petition for a suspension of the ruling of an appellate asylum committee in Athens -comprised mainly of judges who found no evidence he had participated in the coup – that granted one 35-year-old officer international protection, Mouzalas said he wanted “to be sure that my country does not grant asylum to coup plotters”.

“The [government’s] appeal was lodged – at least as far as I am concerned, as the person who signed it – because I would like to be certain that my country does not give asylum to coup plotters.”

Mouzalas went on to clarify that he is not saying that the officers actually were involved in the abortive coup, “but I wanted the judiciary to hand down the final decision about whether they involved in a coup or not”.

New Democracy lambastes Mouzalas

Main opposition New Democracy issued a sharp response to the minister’s observations about “indications”, as they fly in the face of rationale of the Supreme Court Decision that definitively blocked the extradition of the eight officers, and of the appellate asylum committee that granted one of them international protection.

The asylum rulings on the other seven officers are pending.

“The former activist and proponent of human right [Mouzalas], after Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis’ statement that he is examining the possibility of putting the eight officers on trial in Greece – has come along to confirm that the government is determined to supplant the judiciary, New Democracy said in a statement.

«He expressed views that are the opposite of the rationale of the Supreme Court, but that also contradict the rationale of the appellate asylum committee, which ruled that the eight officers had no involvement with the coup in Turkey.”