December 4, 2017 / 1:31 PM / 2 years ago

Nine charged over links to banned Turkish group detained pending trial

ATHENS (Reuters) - A Greek court on Monday ordered the detention of nine Turkish citizens pending trial for terrorism-related offences, including links to a banned militant group behind a series of suicide bombings in Turkey.

One of the eight men and a woman holding Turkish citizenship, who were arrested on suspected links to a leftist militant group outlawed in Turkey following an operation by Greek security services, is escorted by anti-terrorism police officers to the prosecutor's office in Athens, Greece. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

Greek police arrested the eight men and one woman in dawn raids in central Athens last week. Officials say there is no link between the arrests and a planned state visit by President Tayyip Erdogan to Greece, the first by a Turkish head of state in 65 years, on Dec. 7-8.

Greek police are investigating the suspects’ alleged links to the leftist DHKP/C, a far-left group blamed for a string of attacks and suicide bombings in Turkey since 1990.

The nine suspects have been charged with setting up and belonging to a criminal organization, terrorist-related acts of supplying explosive materials, and with illegal possession of firearms, smoke bombs and fire crackers, court officials said.

They said the suspects had denied the charges in a statement that also read: “Solidarity with people who are fighting for their rights and freedom is not terrorism.”

Their lawyers said the defendants had not been fully briefed on the case against them and that the charges were vague.

Police have released the names and photographs of the suspects, who are aged between 20 and 64.

One of the detainees had been wanted by Greek police in connection with an arms and explosives haul off the Greek island of Chios, close to the Turkish coast, in 2013.

Under Greek law, individuals can be held pending trial for up to 18 months. Some of the defendants will apply for asylum in the meantime, their lawyers said.

Based on Greek legal practice, an investigating magistrate will now take over the investigation and a judicial council will finally decide if there is enough evidence to proceed to trial.

Greece and Turkey, though NATO allies, have often been at loggerheads over issues including Aegean territorial rights and the ethnically divided island of Cyprus.

Reporting by Constantinos Georgizas; writing by Renee Maltezou, editing by Michele Kambas and Gareth Jones

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