The dozens of Turkish soldiers who have arrived in Germany refuse to return to their homeland for fear of being persecuted by the government, they say, according to reports by Der Spiegel and German public broadcaster ARD. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is scheduled to visit Turkey in a week.
“If I go back to Turkey, I risk being arrested or even tortured,” one of the officers reportedly said in an interview.
About 150 Turkish NATO soldiers have recently been recalled back to Turkey, but about 40 decided to disobey the order and go AWOL.
The soldiers claim they have nothing to do with the coup.
“Believe me, I have no sympathy for those involved in the coup,” one of soldiers said. “Those people need to be punished; they have destroyed our lives as well.”
The failed coup attempt in July sparked a massive overhaul of Turkey’s military by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Turkish government claims the coup was organized by followers of Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish national currently living in the United States.
In an attempt to justify their disobedience, the AWOL soldiers claim the Turkish government will seek to persecute them because they are “successful” and “pro-western,” German media report.
“The soldiers targeted by the purges have something in common — we are successful, pro-western, and support secularism.”
Merkel will depart for Turkey on a diplomatic visit to meet with Erdogan next week.
On Thursday, the Greek Supreme Court ruled that Greece will not extradite Turkish soldiers who have fled to Greece. In response, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu stated that Turkey will consider cancelling its migration deal with Greece on a bilateral basis. This claim even caused EU spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud to react and express hope that the deal will remain in place.
German authorities have refrained from giving an official response to the soldiers.
“The asylum process is a purely judicial matter,” said Norbert Röttgen, a senior German lawmaker. “Political expectations cannot and will not play a role.”