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Two Greek Soldiers Held in Turkey Could Face 2-Years in Jail

July 19, 2018

Two Greek soldiers being held in Turkey after accidentally crossing the border while on patrol in bad weather on March 1 could get two-year jail terms although they haven’t even been charged yet, reports in Turkey said, citing an unnamed source in the prosecutor’s office in the city of Edirne where they are being held.

They are in a pre-trial detention pending filing of charges and as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has essentially said they are hostages being used to force Greece to return eight Turkish soldiers seeking asylum after fleeing a failed coup against him in which they denied taking part.

Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras, who opposes asylum for the Turkish soldiers – three of whom have already been granted sanctuary – said they can’t be sent back as Greece’s highest court has barred extradition, saying their lives would be in danger.

A prospective misdemeanor charge of entering a restricted military zone, based on the relevant article in the Turkish criminal code, is being eyed, according to the reports, although Greek and Turkish soldiers who accidentally crossed the border before have been quickly returned.

The two Greek soldiers were patrolling an area where Turkey lets human traffickers unlawfully help refugees and migrants cross the border into Greece.

NATO, to which both countries belong – making the Greek soldiers also NATO soldiers – said it wants no part of the dilemma.

Previous statements by Turkish judicial officers and media reports said there were “aggravated” circumstances and that the Greek soldiers should have known where they were, despite the bad weather and an area without clear indications of where the border is.

The Greek soldiers were visited on July 16 by the head of the EU’s Delegation to Turkey, Ambassador Christian Berger, who later briefed a Greek Member of the European Parliament, Manolis Kefaloyannis over the meeting with no report of what was said.

It took Berger weeks to get permission to visit even though Turkey wants to join the European Union.

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