ATHENS — Two men were arrested on Rhodes – one a Greek citizen who works for the Turkish consulate – and charged with spying for Turkey to gain military information from the island of Kastellorizo, where Turkey had been hunting for oil and gas.
Neither were identified but the business newspaper Naftemporiki, citing media reports from Rhodes and Athens, said the men were from the northeast city of Komotini and members of the Thrace border’s Muslim minority.
The Turkish consulate employee is 35 years old and was said to be well known on the island while the other suspect was identified as a 56-year-old cook on a ferry boat for the Rhodes-Kastellorizo route, near the Turkish coast.
The Rhodes newspaper Dimokratiki said the cook allegedly admitted being a spy for Turkey, his mission to take photos of Greek naval vessels anchored at or near Kastellorizo and to report on the size, schedules and deployment of defense forces on the isle.
Despite the seriousness of the charges, he was released by a local prosecutor until trial after he said he didn’t spy for money but "to help my homeland (Turkey.) There was no explanation why he wasn’t held.
The Greek Intelligence Service reported detected the pair last August and began a surveillance operation, the consulate worker first observed after being linked to a group called the Muslim Brotherhood of Rhodes, whose Facebook page reportedly promotes symbols and propaganda linked with Turkish nationalist and Islamist circles.
Rhodes has a small Muslim minority, a community going back to the 16th Century when the island was ruled by Turkey during the Ottoman Occupation, although its members have long integrated into society.
Kastellorizo almost brought Greece and Turkey to a conflict flashpoint after the research vessel the Oruc Reis and Turkish warships perched off its coast in and around Greek waters looking for energy before being pulled out.
That was done by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Edogan just ahead of a European Union meeting where sanctions were going to be considered but se aside until discussion at a March meeting.