Turkish military officers posted to Nato missions have requested asylum rather than return to their home country, where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has carried out a sweeping purge of military personnel and civil servants since a failed coup.
Jens Stoltenberg, Nato secretary-general, said “some” Turkish officers were hoping to stay in the countries where they are serving.
“As always, this is an issue that is going to be assessed and decided by the different Nato allies as a national issue,” he told a conference.
Since a failed putsch in July, Mr Erdogan has jailed at least 30,000 people and sacked or suspended 110,000 from various branches of the government as he pledges to cleanse the country of the supporters of Fethullah Gulen, a self-exiled cleric who he blames for the coup attempt.
The security services have been one of the main targets of the purge, with thousands of interior ministry employees dismissed and at least 100 general and a number of admirals detained.
Prosecutions of those detained have been marred by accusations of impunity, torture and a lack of due process. But Mr Stoltenberg said he had been assured by Ankara that they would be carried out in “accordance of rule of law”.
He will visit Turkey, Nato’s only Muslim majority member and a critical part of the anti-Isis coalition, on Sunday, for an annual session of the alliance’s parliamentary assembly.
The asylum claims of the Turkish officers deployed to Nato are mirrored by those earlier this year of several diplomats serving overseas, suggesting that at least a part of Turkey’s foreign service establishment could have been infiltrated by followers of Mr Gulen.
The crackdown comes as Ankara has sent troops into Syria in its biggest military intervention in that country’s fie-year war and is battling a domestic insurgency by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ party. It has also been grappling with a rise in attacks by Isis militants.
European nations have become increasingly critical of Mr Erdogan’s crackdown, which has also targeted journalists and the president’s political opponents. Last month, Mr Erdogan extended a state of emergency for 90 days.
Anadolu, Turkey’s state-run news agency, said on Friday that 76 academics were detained at Yildiz Technical University in Istanbul on charges of “membership in an armed terrorist organisation”.