The fate of two Greek soldiers being held in custody in Turkey still remains uncertain four months after their arrest.
Turkish authorities arrested the pair in March after they had illegally crossed the Greek-Turkish border — which they claim was mistake due to poor weather conditions — but after being held for months without charges, the two could now receive a two-year prison sentence.
A Turkish judge rejected the fifth appeal made for the soldiers’ release on Tuesday, when Turkish a prosecutor also told the court there was “strong suspicion” the two had crossed into a restricted military zone.
The prosecutor said the Greek servicemen could face up to two years in prison if they are convicted for espionage.
Likewise, judicial officials said authorities feared the pair would attempt to flee the country if released — the reason for which the soldiers do not have a fixed address in Turkey and have instead been held captive.
The Turkish judge’s potential sentence comes just days after last week’s NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium, where Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras agreed with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to focus on easing tensions in the Aegean region.
During an appearance on Greek television channel ANT1 on Wednesday, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos responded to the matter by accusing Turkish authorities of “playing with human lives,” as well as by accusing Ankara of using the soldiers as a bargaining chip to gain political leverage.
Tzanakopoulos said the Greek government would use “all means of political leverage and all diplomatic and legal avenues” to push for the servicemen’s release.
Greek Deputy Defense Minister Fotis Kouvelis also condemned the Turkish court’s decision and affirmed that Athens would not make any trade-off for Turkey to release the soldiers.
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