THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) — A Syrian refugee has been arrested in northern Greece on terrorism-related charges following a review of his asylum application, police said Friday.
Authorities said the 32-year-old man was detained Thursday in the northeast city of Alexandroupolis as a suspected fighter of the Islamic State group while in Syria.
The man, who hasn’t been named, traveled to a Greek island from Turkey last year and lives in the northern city of Thessaloniki with his wife and two children.
He denied the charges and shouted “they are liars” to reporters, before appearing at a public prosecutor’s office Friday. He was given until Monday to prepare his defense, but remained in custody.
At his home, the suspect’s wife spoke to The Associated Press but asked not to be named because her husband hadn’t been formally identified. She didn’t comment on the charges, but said: “Daesh is in Syria. Now we are in Greece,” using the Arabic term for IS.
Police investigators told the AP that they are examining the suspect’s mobile phone and other seized devices to determine whether he was in contact with IS fighters after moving to Greece. They said he had traveled to Greece from neighboring Turkey in June last year, reaching the Greek island of Leros, before moving to the mainland.
European governments fear that Islamic State extremists could hide among the streams of refugees fleeing violence in Syria and Iraq. Many of the fighters in the deadly November 2015 attacks in Paris slipped into Europe on that route with false passports.
There have been a handful of arrests of asylum-seekers linked to IS, including in Germany and Austria, but officials believe the numbers are small. Concern over the threat, however, has contributed to a rightward swing among many European electorates.
More than 60,000 refugees and migrants remain stranded in Greece following European border closures and restrictions last year. The daily number of arrivals to Greek islands has again risen in recent weeks.
Associated Press writer Lori Hinnant in Paris contributed to this report.