Is it OK for the West if there is a coup in Turkey?
The Greek Council of State rejected Alexis Tsipras’s government’s objection on Aug. 22 against its earlier ruling that granted asylum to a Turkish military officer who is accused by the Turkish government and the courts of taking part in the military coup attempt on July 15, 2016.
Captain Süleyman Özkaynakçı, is one of eight Turkish officers (two majors, four captains and two petty officers) who fled to Greece with an army Sikorsky helicopter while the coup attempt was beginning to be defeated in the early hours of July 16. The ruling is likely to be implemented in the cases of the other seven soldiers as well. Turkish courts have issued arrest warrants against them for being members of the illegal network of United States-resident Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen within Turkish government agencies.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry denounced the ruling of the Greek Council of State as “scandalous,” while underlining that the ruling was a violation of the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and also against Greece’s international obligations on the anti-terror struggle.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan’s spokesperson İbrahim Kalın said Greece is not alone in disillusioning Turkey by granting asylum to suspects of the military coup attempt. In March 2017, Norway granted asylum to four Turkish officers who were there on NATO duty and defected after the failure of the coup attempt.
Germany did the same in May 2017 for “some of” 400 officers (with their families) who were serving on NATO or bilateral missions in Germany and some other European Union countries who asked for asylum from Berlin.
In the past, Greece, Germany, Norway and other European countries have embraced dissidents who had escaped from the oppression of military regimes in Turkey after the 1971 and 1980 coup d’etats, which meant solidarity for democracy and democratic rights. But can we consider the hospitality granted to a military coup attempt suspects solidarity for democracy?
Right after the coup attempt, the Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) government in Turkey imposed a state of emergency, sheltering certain rights and freedoms, which lasted for two years. During emergency rule, almost a third of the judges and prosecutors were fired due to their alleged links with Gülen, or the “Fethullahist Terrorist Organization or FETÖ” as the government and courts call them now, which influenced the entire security and judicial atmosphere.
A referendum was carried out under emergency rule, where all of the executive power were transferred to the president, also enabling the president to chair his party in parliament. The coup attempt caused a deterioration in the quality of democracy in Turkey. NATO countries granting asylum to the military officers of a NATO country, who are allegedly involved in the toppling of the government of that country, contradicts the notion of democratic solidarity in the Western defense alliance.
And the U.S. has still not taken any legal steps against Fethullah Gülen, who lives in a farmhouse in Pennsylvania and continues to direct his international work from there, despite a 1981 treaty between them for Extradition and Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters. The agreement says a “temporary arrest” is possible at least if there is an arrest warrant against the suspected person.
Turkey and the U.S. have been in a crisis due to the arrest of American evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson for nearly the last two years due to allegations of being in contact with both Gülenists and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). U.S. President Donald Trump has been asking for Brunson’s immediate release, while making remarks that worsen the depreciation of the Turkish Lira and Erdoğan says it was “up to independent Turkish courts” and the government will not bow down before political pressure by its biggest NATO ally, the U.S.
Recently on Aug. 22, Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton told Reuters in Jerusalem “the Turkish government made a big mistake in not releasing Brunson” and “this crisis could be over instantly if they did the right thing as a NATO ally, part of the West and release the pastor without condition.”
This is arrogant and vague language, which could be used against an enemy or a rival but not an “ally.” What kind of a deal Bolton is talking about is also unclear. If “the government,” not the court would release Brunson, does Bolton mean all subjects of crisis, from Gülen to the U.S. support of PKK offshoots in Syria, would be over “instantly”?
The U.S. and NATO have turned a blind eye on the coups in Turkey in 1960, 1971 and 1980; if not, have supported and shed crocodile tears as long as Turkey served Western military interests. That was the Cold War. It is no excuse, but the U.S. priority then was to be against the Soviet Union, which has now been succeeded by the Russian Federation.
Is this hypocrisy still valid? Is it OK for the West if there is a coup in Turkey, as long as it serves their military interests?