The parents of two Greek servicemen held in pretrial detention in a Turkish border city visited the pair on Friday, which is Good Friday on the Orthodox Christian calendar.
The pair – a lieutenant and a NCO – allegedly strayed into Turkish territory along a poorly demarcated spot on the land frontier between the two countries in the Thrace province. While similar such incidents involving personnel by either country have in the past been resolved within a matter of hours and at the brigade level, this time arrests were made amid ample publicity by the Turkish side.
Moreover, since the incident on March 1 Turkish judicial authorities, at the first instance level, have failed to adjudicate or even file specific charges against the two men and issue a fixed court date. The apparent “foot-dragging” has raised concerns in Athens that official Turkey is using the two men as a “bargaining chip” in order to pressure for the extradition of eight Turkish army officers that fled to Greece in the wake of a failed coup in the neighboring country in July 2016.
The parents of the men arrived in the border city of Edirne at roughly 1 p.m. on Friday after first visiting the Greek consulate for a briefing. The visit marks the fifth by the pair’s close relatives.
Earlier motions for bail were turned down with the justification that the two men do not have a permanent residence in Turkey.
On Monday, a newly appointed alternate defense minister, long-time leftist politician Fotis Kouvelis, merely reiterated to the men’s parents by phone that the leftist-rightist government will exhaust all avenues to free and return them to Greece as soon as possible.
On his part, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras used a religious metaphor, a rarity for the leftist premier but one apparently coinciding with the season, to convey a message of solidarity to the two servicemen and their families, namely, “Angelos and Dimitris, all Greeks demand an end to your Calvary (suffering).”
A main opposition New Democracy (ND) shadow minister for defense, Vassilis Kikilias, also wished the two men and their families strength and perseverance.