Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has told European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that he is no greater than the Turkish judiciary in responding to his demand for the release of two Greek soldiers who were detained by Turkish troops patrolling the border late on March 1, the Hürriyet daily reported on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters as he was returning from an EU-Turkey summit in Varna, Bulgaria, on March 26, Erdoğan said Juncker raised the arrest of the two Greek soldiers and asked for their release from Erdoğan, saying: “Turkey is a great country and you are a great leader. The two soldiers who went missing in the snow pose no threat to you. It would be a great gesture if these soldiers were able to celebrate Easter on April 8 at home.”
Erdoğan, who was reportedly uncomfortable with the insistence of EU officials about the release of the Greek soldiers, said he is no greater than the Turkish judiciary, in remarks that implied that he could not interfere in the judicial process.
The Turkish president actually attracts widespread criticism for giving orders to the judiciary, particularly in cases against critics of the Turkish government and Erdoğan.
Members of the Turkish judiciary are harshly criticized for not acting independently and impartially, but rather on Erdoğan’s orders.
In the meantime, a court in Turkey’s northwestern Edirne province on Tuesday ruled to keep the two Greek soldiers in prison.
The Edirne 2nd Penal Court of Peace ruled that Lt. Aggelos Mitredotis and noncommissioned officer Dimitros Kouklatzis stay in prison on the grounds that there is strong evidence proving the crime they are alleged to have committed, that they present a flight risk, that the alleged crime was perpetrated by members of the Greek military and that a prison sentence is being sought by the prosecutor.
Turkish prosecutors demanded their arrest on charges of military espionage and trespassing in a prohibited military zone.
The Greek army earlier had issued a statement that the pair was deployed on the border and lost their way due to inclement weather and crossed into Turkey by mistake.