Mar 28 2018

Erdoğan tells EU he can’t interfere over detained Greek soldiers

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told the European Union’s political leaders that he is unable to interfere in the judicial process regarding the detention of two Greek soldiers for suspected spying.

The matter is in the hands of the Turkish judiciary, Erdoğan told reporters on his plane as he returned from a meeting in Varna, Bulgaria with the EU leadership.

"They told me 'you are a big country, a big president, make sure the two soldiers are released' and I told them that I am not bigger that the judiciary, that the case is being tried and we should await the verdict," he said, according to Hurriyet newspaper.

The EU has frozen negotiations with Turkey over its human rights record, including its politicisation of the judiciary. Last week, the EU’s leaders slammed Erdoğan’s government for its posture toward neighbouring Greece and attempts to explore for gas by EU member Cyprus in the Mediterranean. The two soldiers were arrested on the Greek-Turkish border at the start of March and are being held in jail pending judicial hearings.

Erdoğan said he also raised the matter of eight Turkish soldiers in Greece that his government wants extradited to face charges of involvement in the July 2016 coup attempt.

"I told them that it's not fair they are spending so much time on the Greek soldiers and not at all with the extradition of the eight Turkish solders who were involved in the coup and fled to Greece," Erdoğan said.