by Aggelos Skordas
European Union’s ambassador to Turkey Christian Berger visited the two Greek servicemen held in a high security prison in Edirne, Northwestern Turkey, one day before a court rejected their fifth consecutive release appeal on Monday, state-run Athens-Macedonian News Agency reports.
The private visit, was arranged after a consultation with the European Commissioner for Immigration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos. Berger expressed the European Union’s support of the two Greek army officers imprisoned for more than four months with no charges being pressed against them yet.
At the same time, according to Turkish media, reports the judge who ruled against the release of the two has said that the minimum sentence for border violation and illegal entrance to restricted military area is two years. “The minimum sentence for this crime is two years in prison and it is appropriate that their detention is continued”, the judge was quoted as saying. Same sources indicate that the authorities are still examining the imprisoned second lieutenant’s and the sergeant’s phones.
The court’s reasoning for the decision was based on the grounds that the two lack any permanent address in Turkey where they could stay until they are formally charged. The same reason for refusing their release was given on all previous occasions when they filed petitions for their release, with the last one filed less than a month ago, on June 19. Their lawyers have the right to file a new petition at the end of August.
The Greek servicemen were patrolling by the only land borderline between the two countries in a heavily forested region, near Kastanies, on Thursday March 1 when they crossed the borders with 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.