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Wednesday, 28 November, 2001, 16:22 GMT
Plane-spotters 'must face justice'
Kalamata courthouse
The group maintains their innocence
The "judicial process" should decide the case of 12 British plane spotters being held in Greece on spying charges, according to the UK Government.

The group, who were arrested along with two Dutchmen three weeks ago after visiting a military air base in the southern town of Kalamata, insist they are innocent.

I am especially concerned that these Britons have now been detained in Greece for over a fortnight, and no end appears to be in sight

Michael Ancram
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has raised the case with his Greek counterpart Costas Simitis during a telephone call about the war in Afghanistan.

He told the House of Commons on Wednesday the group were tourists and he hoped the matter could be resolved as swiftly and satisfactorily as possible.

Downing Street says it is in touch with the Greek authorities and believes "the judicial process should be allowed to take its course".

Mr Blair said Foreign Secretary Jack Straw had also been in touch with his Greek counterpart to discuss the case.

'No evidence'

But shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram said he was concerned Mr Straw did not appear to be doing "anything effective" to try to resolve the situation.

On Wednesday, he told Mr Straw: "Obviously Greek law must prevail, but the detaining in prison, the length of time that is being taken in dealing with the situation are surely matters on which you can, and should, make the strongest representations."

We're doing OK but a bit fed up

Plane-spotter Wayne Groves
The 13 men and one woman are expected to spend at least 10 days in jail, after magistrate Socrates Gavalas decided to refer the case to a higher authority.

The case will now be heard by a three-member judicial council which will rule if any of the group must stand trial.

The group was arrested three weeks ago after allegedly taking photographs at a military air show and airbase.

Photographing military installations is strictly forbidden in Greece, which has longstanding military tensions with Turkey.

The charge carries a maximum 20-year jail sentence.

One of the plane-spotters, Wayne Groves, 38, from Tamworth, Staffordshire, told BBC Radio WM the Greek authorities had no firm evidence against him.

'Never ending'

"The security and intelligence people have confirmed there were no pictures taken and they're happy with it," he said.

"We had permission from the air force to visit.

"It was confirmed the week before we arrived that we would be allowed to come."

He said the group were coping with their detention.

Speaking from Kalamata police station, where he was being held before being transferred back to prison, the railway manager said: "We're doing OK but a bit fed up. It's been never-ending."

Chairman of campaign group Prisoners Abroad, Mike Whitlam, said he was concerned for the group's well-being in what he described as "harsh" prison conditions.

Greek authorities have claimed the group, who were on a tour of air shows, were warned three times before the arrests not to photograph military bases.

They also allege the members took notes at the Megara military base and a Nato base earlier this month.

The 12 being held include Paul Coppin, 45, of Mildenhall, Suffolk, who runs Touchdown Tours which organised the trip, and his wife Lesley.

The others are: Peter Norris, 52, of Uxbridge, west London; Antoni Adamiak, 37, of London; Andrew Jenkins, 32, of York; 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.

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