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ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A Greek court has refused to extradite the first three of eight Turkish servicemen who fled to Greece after the failed July 15 military coup, officials said Monday.
All eight helicopter crewmen deny charges they participated in the coup and in a plot to assassinate Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The decision by the Athens council of appeals court judges followed arguments by a Greek prosecutor that the lives of the pilots and flight mechanics would be in danger in neighboring Turkey. The prosecutor also said Turkish authorities had provided insufficient backing for the charges.
Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik said that, as a NATO ally, Turkey wants Greece to extradite the men.
"Our expectation from the Greek government is to display every kind of effort possible for (the eight) to be returned," Isik said.
The three Turks are expected to be released from police custody in the coming days. It remains unclear whether they will be granted asylum in Greece, as all eight military personnel have requested.
Seven of the men have had their initial asylum bids refused, but have the right to appeal.
One of their lawyers, Stavroula Tomara, said the court will rule over the next three days on Turkey's demand for the extradition of the other five servicemen. All eight fled to Greece in a Turkish military helicopter on July 16.
"I achieved everything I had promised my clients, and I am very pleased," she told The Associated Press. "The trial was objective."