Court upholds police decision to detain Turkish co-pilot in custody

An Athens administrative first-instance court on Tuesday upheld a decision to detain Turkish military pilot Suleyman Ozkaynakcim in custody, finding that it was lawful. Ozkaynakcim was the co-pilot of a military helicopter used by eight Turkish servicemen to flee Turkey and seek asylum in Greece, on the night of a failed coup attempt in July 2016.

He had been detained and held in custody at the Olympic Village police station by order of the head of the Hellenic Police Aliens’ Department, after a Greek court temporarily suspended his asylum status until a government request to have his asylum revoked is heard in court. Following Tuesday’s ruling, he will remain in custody.

His legal counsel had argued that their client’s arrest and detention was illegal and arbitrary but their arguments were rejected by the presiding judge, who also rejected their proposal that he remain at a specific address under police supervision instead of staying in a police jail.

According to the judge, following the suspension of asylum, the Turkish national reverted to his previous status of an asylum-seeker and was in Greece without the necessary documents and without the protection afforded by asylum.

His ruling also referred to the Supreme Court’s irrevocable decision rejecting a request for his extradition to Turkey and the condition set by the Athens Administrative Appeals Court that forbid his forcible removal from Greece. He further found that the 18-month limit for detention without trial has not been exceeded in this case.

The judge further rejected proposals that the co-pilot remain under house arrest, citing reasons of the Turkish national’s personal safety.