Two Greek soldiers who ‘accidentally’ crossed into Turkey arrested
A Turkish court on March 2 placed two Greek soldiers under arrest on espionage charges after they illegally crossed into Turkey, state media reported, in a move that risks a new flaring of tensions between Ankara and Athens.
The court in the western province of Edirne ordered the pair be charged with "attempted military espionage" and "entering forbidden military territory", state news agency Anadolu said.
The Greek army said the two soldiers lost their way in poor weather while patrolling the area around the Meriç (Evros) river that separates the two countries.
The soldiers also said they got lost because of the weather conditions.
Vassilis Beletsiotis, spokesman for the Greek general staff, told AFP they were not accused of spying.
"The image we have is that the two soldiers are accused of entering the forbidden military zone but are not accused of attempted espionage," he said.
Turkish police seized the men’s rifles and the two men said in statements to the prosecutor that they took images on their mobile phones to send to senior Greek military officials, Anadolu Agency reported.
"There was no fighting and (the soldiers) are currently in Edirne," said Greek army spokesman Nikolaos Fanios, adding the pair were in good health.
Greek government spokesperson Dimitris Tzanakopoulos earlier said that the case was one of "illegal entry" and said Athens expected the "imminent return" of the two Greek officers.
The two soldiers were remanded in custody which means they are to stay in prison ahead of trial, a date for which has yet to be set.
Tensions have been high in recent months between Greece and Turkey, both NATO members.
Ankara’s ties with the European Union are going through a particularly rough patch, following Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s threat to block gas drilling in the Mediterranean around the island of Cyprus.
A Turkish boat collided with a Greek patrol boat near a disputed islet group, Kardak, in the Aegean Sea in mid-February, the second such incident in a month, prompting a protest from Athens.
In addition, eight former Turkish officers have taken refuge in Greece since the July 2016 coup attempt and Ankara is seeking their extradition, further ratcheting up the tension.
Greece, like several other European countries where Turkish officers have fled following the coup bid, has so far refused to send them back.