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Turkish court rejects plea to free detained Greek soldiers

Two Greek soldiers captured by Turkey continue to be held pending trial, face five years in prison

Aggelos Mitretodis and Dimitris Kouklatzis, the two Greek soldiers captured along the Greek-Turkish border by Turkey on March 1.

Aggelos Mitretodis and Dimitris Kouklatzis, the two Greek soldiers who were captured by the Turkish military along the Greek-Turkish border in the northern region of Evros on March 1, will remain imprisoned in a maximum-security prison in Turkey, at least for the time being.

A court in Edirne (Andrianoupolis) held a hearing yesterday following a plea submitted by the lawyers representing the two soldiers, requesting their release. The court, after deliberating for one hour, ruled that the two Greek soldiers will continue to be held.

The lawyers representing the two soldiers argued that Mitretodis and Kouklatzis have surrendered the PIN numbers of their cellular phones and that the Greek consulate has allowed its address to be used as the “residence” of the two soldiers and that they could be housed there until their case is tried in Turkey.

Nevertheless, the Turkish court rejected this plea. The reasons provided by the court are as follows:

  • Much incriminating evidence has already been discovered.
  • The soldiers are not permanent residents of Turkey.
  • The investigation into the digital data on the soldiers’ cellular phones has not yet been completed.
  • Nothing has changed with regard to the investigation of Turkish authorities, since the previous decision to detain the two soldiers pending their trial.

The duration of the two soldiers’ detention was once again not clarified by the court, with prosecutors arguing that “all evidence must first be examined.” Turkey’s Anadolu news agency has reported, however, that the two Greek soldiers are facing a five year prison sentence.

The court’s rejection came just one day after the European Union’s Varna Summit, where EU leaders issued an unusually stern warning towards Turkish president Tayyip Erdoğan regarding the case of the two Greek soldiers.

Erdoğan not only did not make any guarantees regarding the fates of the two soldiers, but he once again demanded the return of eight Turkish soldiers who remain in Greece, following their escape from Turkey after the failed July 2016 coup attempt, purportedly against the Erdoğan regime.

Despite the EU’s warning towards Turkey regarding the two Greek soldiers, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker did not forget to proclaim Turkey a “strategic partner” of the EU.

Indeed, as reported by Turkish newspaper Hurriyet — itself recently bought out by a pro-Erdoğan businessman — Turkey agreed, at the Varna summit, to “accelerate relations” with the EU.

There are many observers — and many ordinary Greeks — who believe that the two soldiers are being held by Turkey as a bargaining chip for the return eight Turkish soldiers who sought asylum in Greece, as well as other escapees of the Erdoğan regime who have arrived in Greece in recent months. Broader geopolitical pressures and concerns could also be at play, especially in light of Turkey’s aggressive stance towards Greece and Cyprus in the preceding period.

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