Turkish court acquits Syrian pilot over spy charges: report

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ISTANBUL: A Turkish court on Tuesday acquitted a Syrian military pilot who was accused of espionage when he was captured in 2017 after his jet crashed in Turkey, local media reported.

The pilot had already been released and handed over to the Syrian authorities in October 2017 as relations improved between Turkey, which backed Syrian rebels, and Russia, ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The 58-year-old colonel was judged in absentia and acquitted by a court in Hatay, southeastern Turkey, the DHA news agency reported.

He had been accused of “spying” and “attempting to destroy military installations” and was facing up to 12 years in prison.

He was captured after his plane crashed in a Turkish region near the Syrian border in March 2017. He had managed to eject from the plane and was arrested by Turkish authorities.

According to Ankara, the pilot stated during his interrogation that his plane crashed after being hit by fire in northern Syria. But Syrian official agency Sana said the crash was due to a technical problem.

Turkey and Russia have improved their cooperation on Syria. They are sponsoring an agreement on a demilitarised zone in Idleb province.

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