THESSALONIKI, Greece — A Greek court ruled Friday that two Macedonian men arrested on an international warrant issued by their country on charges related to a wiretapping scandal should be extradited.
Court documents had described the two men, aged 35 and 51, as being members of Macedonia’s counter-intelligence services. They were arrested at the airport of the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki in October after allegedly being found with forged Bulgarian travel documents.
Their Greek lawyer, Konstantinos Chadziioannou, filed an appeal against the verdict with Greece’s Supreme Court. No date for the hearing was immediately set. The two deny the charges against them, saying they are politically motivated. They also face a separate trial in Greece, set for May, on charges related to the use of forged documents.
The extradition hearing for the two, who have not been publicly named, was held behind closed doors at their request. Chadziioannou said he had submitted 17,000 pages of documents as evidence in their defense as part of the process.
“We believe in the court and the justice system of the Republic of Greece and the democratic capabilities of the court,” said Peter Vasilev, the Macedonian lawyer for the two, adding they had hopes the decision would be overturned by the Supreme Court. “We have a lot of arguments on our side …. They are innocent according to (the) criminal code).”
Macedonia’s wiretapping scandal broke in 2015 when it emerged that the phone conversations of about 20,000 people had been illegally recorded. The political crisis triggered early elections the following year.