Arrests mount in Turkey after failed coup

A Greek court has sentenced eight Turkish military personnel who fled to Greece aboard a helicopter during the failed coup in Turkey to two months in prison on charges of illegal entry into Greece.

Thousands have been arrested or fired in wake of Friday's coup attempt

Supporters of the Turkish government sit on a statue of the founder of modern Turkey during a Wednesday demonstration in Istanbul against the July 15 failed coup attempt. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has overseen the arrest of thousands and dismissal of tens of thousands since the coup attempt. (Tolga Bozoglu/EPA)

In the aftermath of the attempted overthrow of the Turkish government, thousands have been arrested, and the arrests have stretched beyond Turkish borders.

On Thursday, a Greek court sentenced eight Turkish military personnel who fled to Greece aboard a helicopter during the failed coup to two months in prison on charges of illegal entry into Greece.

One of the eight Turkish military personnel who fled to Greece is seen here being taken to court in the city of Alexandroupolis, on Thursday. (Antonis Pasvantis/AP)

During the case, three of the defendants testified they were helicopter pilots unaware of the coup and said they were tasked with transporting wounded people when their choppers came under fire from police.

They also claimed their unit told them not to return to their base because the situation was too dangerous. After landing in a different location, they decided to flee, taking one of the aircraft across the border into Greece.

The Greek court sentenced all eight defendants with the recognition of the mitigating circumstances of having acted while under threat. The pilot was acquitted of a charge of violating flight regulations.

Their sentences were suspended for three years, but they were being held in custody pending resolution of their asylum applications.

Turkey previously demanded their return to stand trial for participation in Friday's coup attempt. The eight have denied any involvement and applied for asylum, saying they fear for their safety if they return to Turkey.

Hotel attack soldier captured

Among the many arrests related to the failed coup, a soldier linked to the attack on the hotel where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was vacationing during the foiled coup has been captured in southwestern Turkey, according to Turkish state news agency Anadolu.

Supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan rally outside the White House in Washington, D.C., on Sunday. (Yuri Gripas/AFP/Getty)

He is one of nearly 30 soldiers government officials said were involved in the attack on the hotel in Marmaris resort where Erdogan was vacationing.  

The government said the attackers arrived minutes after he left the premises and officials said earlier this week that at least four remained on the run.

The manhunt for them is ongoing, with police inspecting vehicles, and showing pictures of the suspects to those they stop.

Thousands arrested and fired

Anadolu also reported on Thursday that a further 32 judges and two military officers have been detained by authorities during the crackdown on alleged conspirators following last week's failed coup.

So far, nearly 10,000 people have been arrested while hundreds of schools have been closed. Nearly 60,000 civil service employees have also been dismissed from their posts suspended, forced to resign or had their licenses revoked since Friday.

While the number of dismissals may be staggering, the government doesn't believe the country's civil service would suffer as a result.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek told journalists that they won't "limit state capacity" saying the country had over three million civil servants, four million other public sector employees and some one million teachers.  

Simsek added that all officials would be subjected to "proper judicial review" and would be "able to challenge conclusions at a court of law."  

Human rights suspension

Turkish Parliament members attend a general assembly to discuss the country's 'state of emergency' on Thursday. (Ercin Top/Anadolu Agency/Getty)

The Turkish parliament also met on Thursday to approve Erdogan's proposed three-month state of emergency after the president announced it a day earlier. 

Legislators in the 550-member parliament voted 346-115 to approve the state of emergency across the country.  

The sweeping new powers for President Erdogan allow him to expand his crackdown that has already seen thousands of arrests. He said earlier that the state of emergency would give the government the tools to rid the military of the "virus" of subversion.

 The government claims a U.S.-based Muslim cleric is behind the coup attempt and has embarked on a massive crackdown on the movement's followers. 

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus also said his country will suspend the European Human Rights Convention, in line with an article contained within the agreement allowing for it during emergencies, as it prepares to implement the country's new state of emergency after the failed coup. 

"We will use it in a fashion closer to our allies like France and others," he told reporters as Parliament was debating Erdogan's declaration of a state of emergency.

Simsek said the government will go after "rogue" elements within the state and that there could have been "carnage in the streets" had the coup succeeded.  "We owe it to our people to go after them. We will have a legal framework for it," he said.