NEWS

Detention of two Greek soldiers extended as acrimony lingers

TAGS: Turkey, Diplomacy, Justice, Politics

As a Turkish court rejected an objection submitted by the lawyers of the two Greek soldiers currently in Edirne Prison against a decision to extend their detention, the rancorous verbal standoff between the two sides continued Thursday, with Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos responding to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent “Greater Turkey” comments, saying Ankara should not forget that the Ottoman Empire was defeated in the Greek War of Independence.

“Our wish is to see Turkey adopt European values, but I am concerned that with the recent statements of President Erdogan and his references to the dreams of the Ottoman Empire, Turkey is drifting away from Europe, from international law and the international community,” said Kammenos, who is also the government’s right-wing coalition partner, during a visit to an international arms fair in Armenian capital Yerevan.

“We will continue to do our utmost to explain to Turkey that we want peace, but we must remind it that in many moments of its history – and especially the moments [Erdogan] has in mind, of the great Ottoman Empire – it was defeated, like in Greece in 1821,” Kammenos said.

Earlier Thursday, a Turkish misdemeanor court ruled that the Greek soldiers, who were detained after accidentally crossing the border in bad weather, cannot be released because they have no permanent residence in Turkey and could try to leave the country. The decision means that the pair will remain in jail until a trial date has been set by the judge.

Meanwhile, tensions flared in the Greek Parliament Thursday as a bill drafted by the Justice Ministry that would allow Greek authorities to extend the legal detention period for foreign nationals whose extradition is being sought by their homelands came under fire from opposition politicians.

The new rules would only apply to the eight Turkish servicemen who fled a thwarted coup in Turkey in 2016 and have sought asylum in Greece in the event that Ankara lodges a new appeal for their extradition. Turkish authorities have already had three extradition appeals rejected.

Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis rejected claims by the head of Democratic Left, Thanasis Theoharopoulos, that the new rules would restrict the rights of the eight Turks.

Accusing the opposition politician of “extreme irresponsibility,” Kontonis noted that the draft regulations would only relate to those convicted by criminal courts whereas the Turkish soldiers are being detained as their asylum applications are being processed.

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