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Turkey Rejects Juncker’s Call to Release Two Greek Soldiers

Αssociated Press

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, left, waves as he is greeted by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras prior to their meeting in Athens, Thursday, April 26, 2018. Juncker will discuss Greece's fiscal reform plans after its international bailout program ends in a few months' time. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul said two Greek soldiers facing trial after accidentally crossing the border on March 1 won’t be released, dismissing European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s plea they be let go.

Turkey and Turkish justice don't take orders from anyone,” Gul said on Turkish TV in the latest rebuff for entreaties for the soldiers to be let go for an incident that, in the past, has quickly led to release of soldiers.

Complicating the problem is that eight Turkish soldiers are seeking asylum in Greece after fleeing a failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July, 2016, in which they said they took no part but feared for their lives.

Erdogan suggested a soldiers-for-soldiers swap after saying he couldn’t intefere in the Turkish justice system while asking Tsipras to ignore a ruling by Greece’s highest court that the Turkish soldiers couldn’t be extradited and to send them back anyway.

Tsipras has opposed asylum for the soldiers, which has been granted to one which is under heavy security after being released from detention. The other seven are due to let let out of a maximum 18-month pre-trial confinement in May but likely to also be kept under guard as the soldier already given asylum is being housed in a secret location.

Junker had first asked Erdogan at an EU-Turkey meeting in Varna, Bulgaria in March to speed the release of the Greek soldiers was ignored.

Visiting Athens, Juncker said that, "Turkey cannot claim that the two Greek soldiers are a threat for the country. They must be freed,” leading to the terse response from Gul.