ATHENS (Reuters) – Police in Greece have detained a Turkish consular official on suspicion of spying, a senior Greek source said on Friday, in a case likely to further strain troubled relations between the two NATO allies.
Turkey’s foreign ministry swiftly condemned the arrest, saying it violated the consular official’s rights.
The official, a Greek national employed with the Turkish consulate on the island of Rhodes, was arrested on Friday after being questioned a week ago. A second Greek national was also arrested.
“One person was working at the Turkish consulate in Rhodes and the second man worked on a passenger ship which was operating the Rhodes-Kastelorizo line as a cook,” a police official told Reuters.
Kastelorizo is a small Greek island just off the Turkish coast.
Turkey’s foreign affairs ministry said the consulate worker was a secretary at its Rhodes representation.
“In the process that led to the arrest of our employee, who holds Greek nationality, Greece violated his freedom, security and respect for private and family rights in the framework of the European Convention of Human Rights and Vienna Convention on Consular Relations,” the ministry said.
One of the suspects was accused of photographing movements of Greek armed forces in the Aegean Sea. Greek media have reported that both individuals are members of Greece’s Muslim minority based in the north of the country and that they had been under surveillance for several months.
Greece and Turkey have long running tensions, ranging from the divided island of Cyprus to exploration rights in the Aegean and Mediterranean Sea. Tensions flared in August when Turkey sent a seismic exploration vessel into waters claimed by Greece.
Reporting By Lefteris Papadimas in Athens and Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara, writing by Michele Kambas; Editing by Gareth Jones