Cyprus Mail
Greece

Turkish court frees two Greek soldiers pending espionage trial

Angelos Mitretodis, one of two Greek soldiers who were detained after crossing the border into Turkey, is escorted by Turkish gendarmes as he leaves from a courthouse in Edirne,

A Turkish court has released two Greek soldiers pending their trial on espionage charges, state-run news agency Anadolu said on Tuesday, in a move Athens said would help to improve strained ties between the two NATO allies.

Greece has said the soldiers accidentally crossed into Turkey while following the trail of suspected illegal migrants. Turkish courts ordered their detention in March on suspicion of illegal entry and attempted military espionage.

The two soldiers said in their defence statement that they had crossed the border by mistake and the court then ruled for their release, Anadolu reported.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras welcomed the ruling.

“The release of the two Greek officers is an act of justice which will contribute to friendship, good neighbourly relations and stability in the region,” his office said in a statement.

Following a meeting with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of a NATO summit in July, Tsipras said that Greece and Turkey had agreed to focus efforts on easing tensions in the Aegean.

The two neighbours have been at odds over a host of issues from ethnically divided Cyprus to rights in the Aegean Sea.

In past decades relations between the two have at times been tense but recently rhetoric on both sides had taken a marked turn for the worse, particularly after the collapse of peace talks in Cyprus in July 2017.

Turkey has also called on Greece to return eight Turkish commandos who have sought asylum there after commandeering a helicopter to flee Turkey as a coup against Erdogan crumbled in July 2016. Turkey says they were involved in the putsch and demands they be returned to face trial.