by Aggelos Skordas
The European Parliament on Thursday, requested the immediate release of the two Greek army officers currently held in a maximum security prison in Edirne, western Turkey, after they unintentionally crossed the Greco-Turkish borders at Evros. In a resolution adopted by an overwhelming majority of 607 votes (only seven MEPs voted against, while 18 were absent), the European Parliament called on Turkey to swiftly wrap up the judicial investigation of the second lieutenant and the sergeant of the Greek army, as they are being held for almost two months and no charges have been brought against them yet.
The two captive officers remain unaware of the crime they are being accused of by Turkey, the MEPs’ resolution indicates. Moreover, it “calls on the Turkish authorities to swiftly conclude the judicial process and release the two Greek soldiers and return them to Greece” and to “scrupulously follow legal proceedings and fully respect, for all those concerned, the human rights enshrined in international law, including the Geneva Convention”. In addition, it declares that “everyone who is arrested shall be informed promptly, in a language which he understands, of the reasons for his arrest and of any charge against him”.
Furthermore, the vote “calls on the Council, the Commission, the European External Action Service and all European Union member states to show solidarity with Greece and call for the immediate release of the two Greek soldiers in any contacts or communications with Turkish leaders and authorities, in the spirit of international law and good neighbourly relations”.
Despite the fact that this is not the first time Turkey has been slammed by European officials regarding its stance on the issue, it is the first time the request for the Greek officers’ release has been expressed unanimously by the Union’s parliamentary body.
“This is a loud slap for Erdogan’s leadership”, the European Parliament Vice-President and ruling SYRIZA MEP Dimitris Papadimoulis said in a tweet in the aftermath of the resolution’s approval, while main opposition New Democracy spokesperson Maria Spiraki also welcomed the result of the vote.
The Greek servicemen were patrolling by the only land borderline between the two countries in a heavily forested region, near Kastanies, on March 1stwhen they crossed the borders with Turkey due to bad weather conditions. After encountering a Turkish patrol unit, the officers were taken to the provincial gendarmerie command in Edirne and remain in custody since.