Some Turkish military officers at NATO seeking asylum: Alliance chief
REUTERS photoSome Turkish military officers posted to NATO in Europe have requested asylum since the coup attempt in Turkey in July, alliance Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Nov. 18.
Stoltenberg stressed that Turkey remains a crucial NATO ally and that he condemned the July 15 coup attempt, but also that Ankara must respect the rule of law even it seeks to remove suspected coup plotters from its armed forces.
Turkish military sources told the Hürriyet Daily News that 38-40 Turkish soldiers working at NATO bases applied for asylum in Germany.
The ranks of the soldiers seeking asylum vary from non-commissioned officer to colonel, the sources said.
“Some Turkish officers working in NATO command structures, some of them have requested asylum in the countries where they are working,” Stoltenberg said on Nov. 18.
“As always, this is an issue that is going to be assessed and decided by the different NATO allies as a national issue.”
At least two Turkish military officials, who were at NATO until they were fired by Ankara in September, are seeking asylum in Belgium, where the alliance has its headquarters. Others have made requests in Germany, where NATO has an air base.
A senior Turkish official said last month that Turkey had recalled some soldiers and diplomats after the coup attempt. Some of them declined to go home.
More than 400 military staff and diplomats have been summoned back to Ankara, according to documents seen by Reuters, but some are choosing not to return. They say their colleagues have been imprisoned without charge and have had almost no contact with lawyers or family members.
Colleagues of those recalled and arrested suspect they are accused of being part of the military faction that seized bridges and roads and attacked Turkey’s parliament on July 15. They deny any wrongdoing.
The issue is highly sensitive both for Turkey and for the West, which relies on Ankara in the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants and in preventing migrants from heading en masse from its territory to the European continent.
Stoltenberg is to travel to Istanbul on Nov. 20 for a meeting of lawmakers from across the alliance, joining Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and senior government ministers for the NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s annual session.