Greece’s defense minister has claimed the detention of two soldiers in Turkey in a border incident earlier this year was carried out on the direct orders of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Panos Kammenos told Greek radio on Wednesday the two men — Second Lieutenant Angelos Mitroudis and Sergeant Dimitris Kouklatzis — were being held to swap for the eight former Turkish soldiers seeking asylum in Greece.
In March, Erdogan explicitly linked the two cases, claiming Greece’s leadership had promised to return the eight soldiers who fled across the border in a helicopter following the July 2016 coup attempt.
In June this year, Ankara suspended a migrant readmission deal with Greece over the issue.
Although the two Greek soldiers reportedly crossed the frontier into Turkey along the Evros River by mistake in March, Kammenos told Real FM he did not think it was a “random act” and suggested the Turkish side used bad weather at the time as an opportunity to seize the two men.
Greece has repeatedly demanded the two men’s release and ruled out a swap for the eight Turkish soldiers, stating that Greek judicial decisions are beyond the government’s authority.
In mid-July, a Turkish judge who ruled that the two Greek soldiers should not be released from pre-trial custody in Edirne, said the minimum sentence for border violation is two years in prison.