European Parliament calls on Turkey to swiftly release detained Greek soldiers

In a resolution adopted by an overwhelming majority of 607 MEPs on Thursday, the European Parliament has called on Turkey to swiftly conclude the judicial process and release two Greek soldiers held in a Turkish prison since early March, when they accidentally wandered across the border into Turkish territory while on patrol.

In the resolution, MEPs stress that the two Greek soldiers have been held more than one month without charges being brought against them, unaware of the crime of which they are accused. Previous cases of similar accidental border crossings by either Greek or Turkish soldiers were settled in the past on the spot and at the level of local military authorities on both sides.

The European Parliament calls on the Turkish authorities to “swiftly conclude the judicial process and release the two Greek soldiers and return them to Greece” and to “scrupulously follow legal proceedings and fully respect, for all those concerned, the human rights enshrined in international law, including the Geneva Convention”.

The text calls on the Council, the Commission, the European External Action Service and all EU member-states to “show solidarity with Greece” and to call for the immediate release of the two Greek soldiers in any contacts or communication with Turkish leaders and authorities, in the spirit of international law and good neighbourly relations.

The non-legislative resolution was adopted with a vast majority – 607 votes in favour to seven against, with 18 abstentions.

MEPs quizzed on Tuesday evening European Commissioner Stylianides on the steps to be taken for the two soldiers to be released and strongly criticised Turkey for not respecting fundamental rights and the rule of law. Speakers from all political groups expressed their solidarity with Greece and asked for the judicial process to be completed and for the release of the two soldiers.

The full text of the resolution is given below:

The European Parliament,

– having regard to the arrest on 1 March 2018 and continued detention by the Turkish authorities of two Greek soldiers who stated that they lost their way in bad weather,

– having regard to the fact that that particular part of the border, in the forest area of Kastanies along the Evros/Meriç River, is a major crossing point for migrants, refugees and traffickers, and that the lieutenant and sergeant in question were on a regular patrol tour of the border,

– having regard to the calls from EU and NATO officials for the soldiers’ release, not least from the European Council on 22 March 2018 and during the EU-Turkey Leaders’ Meeting of 26 March 2018,

– having regard to the Greek Government’s efforts to secure the release and return of the soldiers,

– having regard to Article 5(2) of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that ‘Everyone who is arrested shall be informed promptly, in a language which he understands, of the reasons for his arrest and of any charge against him’,

– having regard to Rule 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A. whereas on 4 March 2018 a Turkish court in Edirne ruled that the two soldiers, who are currently being held in maximum security detention and are accused of illegally entering Turkey, would continue to be detained;

B. whereas the two Greek soldiers have been held in a Turkish prison for more than one month without charges being brought against them, leaving them unaware of the crime of which they are accused;

C. whereas previous cases of similar accidental crossings of the border by either Greek or Turkish soldiers were settled in the past on the spot at the level of the local military authorities of both sides;

1. Calls on the Turkish authorities to swiftly conclude the judicial process and release the two Greek soldiers and return them to Greece;

2. Calls on the Council, the Commission, the European External Action Service and all EU Member States to show solidarity with Greece and call for the immediate release of the two Greek soldiers in any contacts or communications with Turkish leaders and authorities, in the spirit of international law and good neighbourly relations;

3. Calls on the Turkish authorities to scrupulously follow legal proceedings and fully respect, for all those concerned, the human rights enshrined in international law, including the Geneva Convention;

4. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Turkish and Greek Presidents, Governments and Parliaments, the European External Action Service, the Commission, the competent authorities of the Member States and NATO.