A Turkish court in the western border city of Edirne has reportedly freed two Greek servicemen held in the neighboring country since early March 2018, the semi-official Anadolu news agency reported on Tuesday afternoon.
Reports were still sketchy on the Greek side, mainly on whether the pair were conditionally released, under house arrest, or whether they are free to return to Greece.
No official announcements were immediately made in the wake of the news report.
Other Turkish media claimed, citing sources in the local prosecutor’s office, that the two men could face charges carrying up to a two-year sentence if found guilty.
Angelos Mitretodis and Dimitris Kouklatzis allegedly strayed into Turkish territory through a poorly demarkated spot on the land border between the two countries, essentially a “bulge” that extends west of the Evros (Meric) River, and across from the city of Edirne. The specific site is called Kastanies, referring to a nearby village on the side of the frontier.
The pair, a reserve lieutenant and a NCO, have been held in an Edirne jail without official charges being filed or even a court date being set.
Previous instances of military personnel from either country inadvertently straying into the other’s territory along the land border separating the two NATO member-states were always resolved in a matter of hours and between local commanders.
Widespread speculation focused on whether Ankara was holding the two men as “bargaining chips” in order to pressure Athens to ignore independent high court rulings and hand over eight Turkish officers and NCOs that fled Turkey in the wake of a July 2016 coup. They eight Turks sought and were subsequently granted political asylum in Greece, as court and independent asylum committee decisions often faced opposition by the leftist-rightist Greek coalition government.