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Tuesday, 20 November, 2001, 16:58 GMT
Greece's strict reputation 'known'
Some of the Britons being held
The 12 Britons are facing fresh spying charges
Greece's reputation for taking a dim view of plane spotting is well known among aviation enthusiasts.

The editor of Pilot magazine has told BBC News Online that Greece was a known trouble spot for this kind of hobby.

And even on the website for Touchdown Tours, which organised the holiday, there was a hint at the kind of strict regime facing those who came on the trip.

In an ironic preview of the Greek expedition, the website said: "The last trip of 2000 was the group's second to Greece, building on the expertise from the first trip in November 1998.

"We managed to visit 18 bases in 5 days, log over 700 Greek military aircraft without any problems and have a thoroughly enjoyable time.
Some of the Britons
The spotters face 20 years in jail

"I would warn that spotting in Greece is still not particularly liked by the authorities and without our contacts at the Greek Ministry of Defence, which helped on a number of occasions, the trip might have been a little longer than anticipated!"

But, as the BBC correspondent Paul Wood, speaking from Greece, said, what started out as complete joke is now a very serious incident, with the possibility of 20 years imprisonment for the 12 Britons and two Dutch.

Philip Whiteman, editor of Pilot magazine, said: "I've heard of people getting into trouble in Greece before.

"It was always sensitive, like Turkey and the old Eastern bloc countries."

Mr Whiteman disagreed that the group should have taken more care.

Outrageous

He said: "They were doing the sort of thing they would be completely free to do in any other European country.

"It's absolutely outrageous that they've been arrested and treated like that."

There is some sympathy over here (in the US) for their situation, but you have to use common sense

Kevin Cook
American plane spotter

Meanwhile, news of the Britons' plight has reached plane spotters in the States.

Kevin Cook, 42, from the South Florida Historical Aviation Society, said: "There is some sympathy over here for their situation, but you have to use common sense."

Since 11 September, Mr Cook can no longer spot at Miami and Fort Lauderdale airports because of increased security.

See also:

16 Nov 01 | Europe
Spy charge Britons separated
14 Nov 01 | UK
I spy ... another plane
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