Former Turkish lawmaker seeks political asylum in Greece
THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) — A pro-Kurdish former lawmaker convicted of insulting Turkey’s president has requested asylum in Greece after illegally crossing the border, Greek authorities said Friday.
A police official said Turkish citizen Leyla Birlik, 44, surrendered to Greek police Wednesday near the northeastern town of Alexandroupolis, and was in the process of requesting asylum in Greece. She was released pending the asylum process.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case.
Birlik, a former People’s Democratic Party, or HDP, lawmaker was sentenced in January to 21 months’ imprisonment for insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. She was freed pending appeal but banned from leaving Turkey.
Birlik had also been arrested in 2016 along with the HDP co-leaders on separate terror-related charges. She was released pending trial but was banned from leaving the country.
An increasing number of Turkish citizens have been crossing illegally to Greece — Turkey’s historic rival — since the July 2016 failed coup in Turkey and their government’s crackdown on people allegedly involved in the coup.
Greek asylum authorities say 1,839 Turkish citizens have requested asylum in Greece so far this year — more than the 1,827 Turkish citizens who requested asylum for all of 2017.
The asylum applicants included eight Turkish servicemen who fled to northern Greece in a military helicopter the day after the coup. Ankara is angrily demanding their extradition, alleging that they were involved in the plot.
But Greece’s Supreme Court has refused to send them back to Turkey, arguing that they would not get a fair trial and that their lives would be in danger there.
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