Greece Arrests 2 Turkish Soldiers for Trespassing into Country
Two Turkish soldiers were arrested in Greece for allegedly crossing into the country illegally, a Greek army spokesman said yesterday.
Speaking to the Associated Press (AP), the army spokesman said that the arrests took place on the Greece-Turkey border, while denying Greek media reports that gunfire was exchanged during the incident.
The spokesman requested anonymity because the case is under investigation, AP said.
According to AP, the spokesman also said that it is not clear how the Turkish soldiers entered the country or what their ranks are. It was also reported that the Greek army is currently investigating whether or not there have been any similar entrance attempts by other Turkish soldiers.
Previously, two Greek soldiers, Lt. Aggelos Mitretodis and noncommissioned officer Dimitros Kouklatzis were detained by Turkey on March after being discovered by patrolling Turkish troops near the Pazarkule border gate, five kilometers from Edirne province, near the Greek border.
The two men, who are charged with military espionage and entering a forbidden military zone, repeated their earlier defense and said they crossed into the Turkish side of the border by mistake.
The prosecution said the pair testified they entered the Turkish side by tracking footsteps in the snow and filmed images on their mobile phones to send to higher-ranking officials.
The soldiers flew back from Turkey on a Greek government plane after being released from prison in August.
Earlier this year, Greece granted asylum to three out of eight putschist soldiers who fled Turkey to the chagrin of Turkish authorities. The suspects, who hijacked a military helicopter and landed in Greece hours after the coup attempt was thwarted, were released from custody in May after a mandatory detention period of 18 months expired. They are being held “in a safe place outside Athens” until the conclusion of asylum requests, according to Greek media outlets. The Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) is accused of carrying out a coup attempt that killed 250 people through its infiltrators in the military. After strong public resistance helped quell the attempt, Turkey launched a nationwide crackdown and a global campaign to bring members of the terrorist group to justice.
The number of suspected members of FETÖ trying to flee to Greece increased in the same period, with more Gülenists encouraged by lax treatment of putschists seeking to cross into the country. On Monday, two former employees of Turkey’s National Intelligence Directorate (MİT) who were fired for their links to FETÖ and wanted by Turkish authorities were caught by border guards in Edirne, a province bordering Greece, while they were trying to sneak into Greece.
Ankara formally requested that Greece extradite FETÖ members who were behind the coup attempt to face trial in Turkey.
Despite the Greek government’s preference to extradite the eight suspects, the Greek judiciary has repeatedly denied the applications. Turkey earlier condemned rulings not to extradite coup suspects as “politically motivated.” The two countries, which have a past tainted by hostilities, recently sought to improve relations and have agreements in place to fight terrorism.
Greece has repeatedly been accused by Turkey of being a haven for terrorists who have committed crimes against Turks. This year alone, Greek courts ordered the release of members of the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), which is recognized as a terrorist group by the European Union.