Turkish Nato officers apply for asylum amid Erdogan's crackdown on dissent

NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg delivers a speech on European defence and transatlantic security at the German Marshall Fund think-tank in Brussels on Nov 18, 2016.
NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg delivers a speech on European defence and transatlantic security at the German Marshall Fund think-tank in Brussels on Nov 18, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

BRUSSELS (AFP) - A number of Turkish officers posted to Nato have asked for asylum in the member state countries where they serve amid a post-coup crackdown at home, alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday (Nov 18).

Mr Stoltenberg also said he would travel to Istanbul on Sunday (Nov 20), his second visit to Turkey since September when he sought to reassure Ankara of Nato's support after the failed July coup.

"It is right that some Turkish officers working in Nato command structure, some of them have requested asylum in the countries where they are working," Mr Stoltenberg told a conference in Brussels when asked about the issue.

Mr Stoltenberg said the asylum issue will "be assessed and decided" within each Nato ally where the officers have sought asylum as it is a national prerogative. He did not name the countries.

"We have seen a number of changeovers in the Nato command structure where Turkish personnel has been changed," the Nato chief said.

"I expect Turkey to fill all its posts at the Nato command structure," he said.

"This is a national decision of Turkey to decide who is filling Turkish posts in Nato command structure," he added.

Authorities in Greece have said eight Turkish military officers fled to the northern Greek city of Alexandroupoli shortly after the attempted coup in mid-July.

Turkey declared a state of emergency following the July 15 failed coup, arresting tens of thousands in a crackdown which critics say has gone well beyond the alleged plotters to include anyone daring to criticise Mr Erdogan.

EU and US officials have expressed concern over the arrests of opposition lawmakers and journalists as fears grow over Turkey's use of emergency laws.

Mr Stoltenberg said he will be joining a meeting in Turkey of parliamentarians from Nato countries.