Suspected Gülenist soldier seeking asylum cooperates with Greek Cypriot intel authorities

Suspected Gülenist soldier seeking asylum cooperates with Greek Cypriot intel authorities

Ömer Bilge – NICOSIA
Suspected Gülenist soldier seeking asylum cooperates with Greek Cypriot intel authorities

A soldier who has been seeking asylum from Greek Cyprus after fleeing Turkey over his suspected links to the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) is reportedly cooperating with Greek Cypriot intelligence authorities.

The officer, whose identity has not disclosed but who is in his 30s, fled in a boat from the southern province of Mersin, telling the Greek Cypriot authorities that he will be jailed if he is caught in Turkey.

“Turkish police carried out a search in my house after a warrant was issued. If they catch me, they’ll send me to jail,” the officer from Naval Forces said in his initial testimony after arriving in Larnaca marina in a 31-meter-long sailboat.

According to information obtained by daily Hürriyet, the boat arrived in Larnaca at around 6:40 p.m. on Oct. 2, after which the officer and his wife, who is of Kazakhstan origin, went directly to the Greek Cypriot police.

The officer told the authorities that he is a member of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and filed an asylum application.

Greek Cypriot port police subsequently notified their foreign ministry and intelligence services.

While keeping the identities of the officer and his wife secret and preventing the press from obtaining any photos or footage, the Greek Cypriot intelligence immediately took the couple for interrogation.

“I’m an officer from the Naval Forces and I’m not a FETÖ member,” the officer said, adding that his name had been included in the list of FETÖ members after Turkey’s failed July 15, 2016 coup attempt, widely believed to have been masterminded by the group.

“My name was included in the list of FETÖ member officers as part of the investigations launched after the July 15 coup attempt. Turkish police carried out searches in my house late on Sept. 29 after an arrest warrant was issued, so I fled via Mersin with my wife. If I had stayed in Turkey, I would have been arrested and never released. I want to use my right to political asylum,” he reportedly said in his testimony.

Greek Cypriot intelligence then offered for the Turkish couple to stay in a private house, but the officer rejected the proposal and spent the night in his boat.

The next day, on Oct. 3, the officer once again gave his testimony to the intelligence officers. The officer and his wife then walked around the streets of Larnaca under the protection of civilian police and returned to their boat shortly after.

The incident has been widely covered in Greek Cypriot media, with many outlets emphasizing the cooperation between the officer and intelligence authorities.

“[Greek Cypriot] officials are pleased with the Turkish officer’s cooperation,” one media outlet stated.

The Greek Cypriot Foreign Ministry has reportedly not made any decision regarding the officer’s asylum application.

Greek Cypriot diplomatic sources told the Fileleftheros and Alithia newspapers that there was an agreement on extradition of criminals between Turkey and Cyprus before 1974, but because Turkey does not recognize Greek Cyprus no official application for extradition from Ankara is expected. This situation is among the main reasons why many suspects sought in Turkey have requested asylum from Greek Cyprus.