Greece expels Turkish worker who illegally crossed border

A Turkish civilian arrested by Greek soldiers for straying into Greece has been deported to Turkey, Greek police have said, according to a report by The Associated Press.

Local police in northeastern Greece said the man was returned to Turkish authorities at the Kastanies border crossing on Saturday afternoon.

A Greek court gave the 37-year-old a five-month suspended sentence on May 3 for illegally entering Greece the previous day. The man was detained while driving an excavator on the Greek side of the border.

The man, who was also fined 1,500 euros ($1,797), said he had been working on the construction of a well at a Turkish customs post. He said he got confused and turned accidentally into Greece instead of Turkey after work. The man initially appealed his sentence but later decided against it, his lawyer told The Associated Press.

A court in northwestern Turkey, however, on April 25 had ordered a continuation of the detention of two Greek soldiers who “inadvertently” strayed across the countries’ border last month. The Edirne 2nd Criminal Court of Peace ruled against a petition by the soldiers’ lawyers to release them from custody.

Later the same day, the soldiers’ lawyers appealed to the Edirne 1st Criminal Court of Peace. After hearing their arguments, the court rejected their appeal and ruled to continue the detention of Lt. Aggelos Mitredotis and noncommissioned officer Dimitros Kouklatzis.

The court based its decision on digital materials found on the soldiers, their lack of permanent residence in Turkey and “concrete evidence” they presented a flight risk.

The Greek soldiers were remanded in custody on March 2 for entering a prohibited military zone in Edirne, which borders Greece.

Meanwhile, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on April 27 that Greece was remaining calm in the face of “dangerous provocations” from Turkey. Tsipras, who was hosting EU Commission President Juncker, said Greece could play a central part in elevating the role of the 28-member bloc into a force for peace and security.

“We are proving that by being decisive and also calm in dealing with dangerous provocations in the Aegean by Turkey towards our sovereign rights,” Tsipras said.

Süleyman Özkaynakçı, one of eight Turkish soldiers who escaped to Greece by military helicopter in the wake of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016, has been released by Greek authorities. The decision, taken by the Greek council of state, was signed on Thursday and put into practice on Friday. Helicopter co-pilot Özkaynakçı will be placed in a safehouse guarded by Greek police.

A previous court decision had ruled not to give the men travel documents and placed them under the obligation of registering with police every day. It also said the eight soldiers should be protected and kept under surveillance by the police. Therefore, Özkaynakçı will be able to live at a secret address under police supervision, but not leave Greece.

The two NATO partners have long been at odds on issues ranging from airspace over the Aegean Sea to mineral rights in the same region, and ethnically split Cyprus.

Rhetoric between the two recently sharpened after the arrest of the two Greek soldiers by Turkey and Greece’s refusal to hand over the eight Turkish commandos who fled to the country in the wake of an abortive coup against Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan in July 2016.

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