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Turkish Court Refuses to Release Two Jailed Greek Soldiers

A Turkish court in the western province of Edirne refused to release two Greek soldiers who have previously been imprisoned over inadvertently crossing the Turkish border, a day after top EU leaders called on Ankara to free the soldiers.

The pair were arrested on March 2 for entering a military zone in the northern Turkish province of Edirne, which borders Greece.

A local court in Edirne ruled after its latest hearing on Tuesday that the two soldiers would remain behind bars, the private Dogan news agency reported, without providing any details.

The Turkish lawyers of the two men had asked for their release.

The judgment was announced after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan came under pressure from EU chiefs at a meeting in Bulgaria late Monday to release the pair.

European Commission Chief Jean-Claude Juncker said the bloc’s 28 member states had confidence in the Turkish side “to solve that (the issue of the soldiers) in the best way”.

An EU meeting in Brussels last week condemned Turkey over the soldiers’ arrest, in a show of firm support for Athens.

The soldiers told prosecutors shortly after their arrest that they mistakenly crossed the border after getting lost in the fog.

But according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, they have been charged with “attempted military espionage” by prosecutors as well as entering a forbidden military zone.

It said the pair testified they entered the Turkish side by tracking footsteps in the snow and filmed images on their mobile phones to send to higher ranking officials.

The arrest of the soldiers has strained bilateral ties between Ankara and Athens, which are already at loggerheads over the exploration of gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean.

The longstanding foes have also clashed over Turkish demands that Greece extradites eight Turkish troops wanted over the July 2016 attempted coup aimed at unseating Erdogan.

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