Greek judges and lawyers express concern over continuing detention of servicemen in Turkey

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greek officers

by Aggelos Skordas

The Association of Greek Judges and Public Prosecutors for the Democracy and the Liberties (EEDD) have expressed their concerns over the continuing detention of the two Greek army officers in a high security prison of Edirne, Northwestern Turkey. In a similar tone, the presidents of Greece’s bar associations in an announcement also expressed their worries regarding whether the Turkish justice is operating independently.

The governing council of the EEDD, a member of the European Magistrats Européens pour la Démocratie et les Libertés (ΜEDEL), is setting out fundamental questions relating to the two officers’ standing a fair trial and requesting that their case be included on the agenda of the Board of Directors of the MEDEL next meeting.

In particular, the Association in a statement indicates that: “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the United Nations International Compact on Civil and Political Rights ensures that everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law, which will decide on the merits of each category of criminal offense; which has been brought against him.”

In addition, Article 5/ Paragraph 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights provides that “any person who is arrested shall be immediately informed, in a language he understands, of the causes of his arrest and of any charge against him”, the EEDD underlines.

“The above mentioned fundamental international and European principles of class action and public and fair trial in this case have been flagrantly violated. In view of the above, the Turkish judicial authorities respecting the rights of the detained army officers and the principle of the rule of law must align themselves with the requirements of the aforementioned international and European texts on a speedy and fair trial”, the Association concludes.

On their behalf, the presidents of the Greek bar associations have decided to address the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) in order to apply the assignment of observers to Turkey who would monitor the two Greek servicemen judicial status. Moreover, in an announcement issued following a meeting in Kozani, Northern Greece, on Saturday they point out that Ankara has been using the Greek officers’ case for political reasons and internal consumption.

In response to the head of the Turkish delegation to NATO Parliamentary Assembly Ahmet Berat Conkar attempted to link the case of the two Greek army officers to that of the eight Turkish soldiers who fled to Greece by helicopter following the July 2016 failed coup attempt and applied for asylum, the Greek lawyers indicate that “the case of Greek servicemen, detained for four months without being charged, is unrelated and cannot be linked, especially at a legal level, to the case of the Turkish officers. Obviously, under the responsibility of the Turkish side, the case goes beyond its legal nature and takes on a political dimension”.

The Greek lawyers’ announcement came only a few hours after Conkar sent a letter to European Parliament President Antonio Tajani -for the first time- officially tactically linking the two cases. “The Turkish authorities and Turkish society expect the extradition of the eight murderers immediately and we assure you that two Greek soldiers detained will receive a fair trial in Turkey,” Conkar characteristically said in his letter.

“The recent letter of the President of the Turkish delegation to NATO Parliamentary Assembly, linking the fate of Greek soldiers detained by the Turkish authorities with the case of Turkish officers who have been granted asylum by the Greek State, confirms our standing that Turkish justice does not work independently and does not provide a guarantee for a fair trial”, the presidents of the Greek bar associations highlight, while calling the Greek leadership to take the necessary actions that would bring the issue to all international bodies.

The Greek servicemen -a lieutenant and a sergeant- were patrolling by the only land borderline between the two countries in a heavily forested region, near Kastanies, Evros, on Thursday March 1, when they accidentally strayed into Turkey due to bad weather conditions. After encountering a Turkish patrol unit, the officers were initially taken to the provincial gendarmerie command in Edirne and remain in custody since. So far Edirne’s court has rejected no less than four consecutive release request filed by the two, who have not yet been informed of the causes of their continuing imprisonment.