The two Greek soldiers who were detained after accidentally crossing the Turkish border in bad weather on Thursday will appear before a court on Monday on charges of illegally entering a prohibited military zone, but not for espionage, as initial media reports had suggested.
The two soldiers, Angelos Mitretodis and Dimitris Kouklatzis, were remanded in custody on Friday by a Turkish court in the city of Edirne on charges of illegally entering a prohibited military area.
Despite the recent tensions between the two countries, reports said consultations between the Turkish Chief of General Staff, General Hulusi Akar, and Chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff, Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis, were conducted in a “good climate.”
Athens says the two soldiers were on a normal border patrol in the forest area of Kastanies at Evros on Thursday but took a wrong turn due to bad weather.
They were arrested in an area where the Greek and Turkish guard posts are no more than 150 meters apart.
Turkish news reports said the court ordered an examination of data on their mobile phones, which were confiscated, and that the men were investigated for alleged military espionage.
Turkish news reports also quoted the two soldiers as telling the court that “we are not spies” and explaining that they crossed to the Turkish side after following footprints in the snow thinking they belonged to illegal immigrants.
“We did not cross the border intentionally,” they reportedly told the court in Edirne.
For his part, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said that “the incident was the result of a mistake.”
“The two Greek officers diverged from their route because of the bad weather in the area, and found themselves, I repeat, by mistake, in Turkish territory,” he emphasized, adding that that Athens is in consultation with Turkish authorities “for a prompt resolution of the matter.”
“Legal processes in Turkey will be put in motion swiftly and we expect the return of the two Greeks to our country,” Tzanakopoulos said.
Meanwhile US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt said at the Delphi Economic Forum that Washington was “fully engaged” in the case.