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Tuesday, 27 November, 2001, 15:10 GMT
Plane-spotters face Greek judge
Dutch plane spotter Frank Mink
The 12 Britons and two Dutch people are in court
A group of British plane-spotters held on spy charges in Greece are appearing before an investigating judge.

The 12 Britons are accused of espionage after allegedly taking photographs and making notes of planes at a military air base.


To be invited to an airshow and then spend three weeks in prison is just unbelievable

Steve Rush

Some of the accused were handcuffed as they arrived at court in Kalamata.

Several group members vented their frustration at the actions of the Greek authorities.

"To be invited to an airshow and then spend three weeks in prison is just unbelievable," said Steve Rush, one of those held.

"I came here last year - on exactly the same itinerary - and had a fantastic time... but for some reason this year they didn't like the look of us and decided to lock us up."

'Confident'

Another group member told BBC News Online of his hopes for release.

Andrew Jenkins said: "I have done nothing wrong so why should I feel guilty? If there is any justice in the world, we will see it today."

Greek foreign minister George Papandreou has said he hopes the case can be resolved in the near future.

Pressure has been building on the Greek Government to release the group.

Outside court on Tuesday, the lawyer for the Britons, Yiannis Zacharias, said he had seen the photographs and they were of a war museum in Athens and landscape - not of aircraft.

Earlier he had told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that he was confident the majority of the group would be released on Tuesday, but that it could be on bail.

'Confident'

He added that if the case was to proceed to trial, he was confident that the charges would not stand.

Gary Fagan, who is accused of having a frequency scanner, told BBC News Online: "I'm feeling very confident - that's all I can be at the moment."

Wayne Groves said the group had been looked after in prison by fellow prisoners. He said other inmates, mainly Albanians, had provided them with money.

He said there were no beds in the cell, just "thin" mattresses on a concrete floor.

Despite his ordeal, he told BBC News Online that he was upbeat and confident that the group would be released.

Each group member's case is going before the judge separately. They are taking about two hours each and the hearing is expected to stretch into Wednesday.

He is expected to give his decisions on the group once he had spoken to all of them.

The court appearance is the first time lone woman Lesley Coppin has seen her husband Paul since their arrest.

Diplomatic efforts

Last week Prime Minister Tony Blair telephoned his Greek counterpart Costas Simitis while Minister for Europe Peter Hain has raised the issue with Mr Papandreou and twice with Greek Europe minister Tacos Yiannitsis.

Mr Papandreou has accepted the tradition of plane and train spotting is peculiar to the UK, but says previous tensions between Greece and Turkey and the events of 11 September mean security in the country is tight.

But while there are hopes that the hearings may bring some releases, there are also fears that there could be some new charges.

Greek officials in Athens have continued to insist that they cannot intervene in what is a matter for the Greek judiciary.

Three warning

The foreign ministry claims the group was warned three times before the arrests not to photograph military bases.

The 12 Britons and two Dutch people were arrested on 8 November for allegedly taking photographs and making notes while attending an air show at a military airfield in the southern town of Kalamata.

The charge carries a maximum 20-year jail sentence.

Mr Coppin, 45, of Mildenhall, Suffolk, who runs Touchdown Tours, organised the week-long trip.

The others are: Peter Norris, 52, of Uxbridge, west London; Antoni Adamiak, 37, of London; Andrew Jenkins, 32, of York; Wayne Groves, 38, of Tamworth; Michael Bursell, 47, of Swanland, near Hull; Michael Keane, 57, of Dartford, Kent; Steven Rush, 38; Christopher Wilson, 46; Graham Arnold, 38; and Gary Fagan, 28.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Greg Wood reports from Kalamata
"The magistrate has shown he is intent on following the letter of Greek law"
Richard Corbett, MEP
"We are making sure that there is pressure on the Greek authorities to deal with this speedily"
See also:

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