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Thursday, 29 November, 2001, 10:15 GMT
EU intervenes over plane-spotters
Two of the group of 12 British plane-spotters
The group insist they have done nothing wrong
Pressure is mounting on Greece from the European Union to speed up the case of the British and Dutch plane-spotters accused of spying.

Labour Euro MP Richard Howitt is flying to Athens on Thursday to meet some of the detained British plane-spotters and to push for a swift outcome.

And European Parliament President Nicole Fontaine is writing to the Greek Government to try to quell what is fast becoming a major diplomatic incident within the European Union.

A meeting of Euro MPs in Brussels condemned the continued, three-week detention of the Britons.


Afterwards Mr Howitt challenged the Greek Government to either charge the 12 Britons or let them go.
British plane-spotters detained in Greece
The three-week detention goes on

He said: "Those who are detaining these people must make a decision - charge them or release them. They must put up or shut up."

He added: "I want to check on their welfare and their conditions in prison and also, if possible, to push for swift decisions in this case."

His Liberal Democrat colleague Lady Sarah Ludford, MEP for three of the families, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think our government is being too passive.

"The situation is ridiculous and it's quite bizarre. I think it's quite proper that more pressure should be put on and we need to say that the standards of the European Convention on Human Rights must be pressed."

Those who are detaining these people must make a decision

Richard Howitt
European MP
But Dr Nikos Papadakis, from the Greek Embassy in London, said the 11 men and one woman had delayed the judicial process by not revealing they had been warned off another air base a few days earlier.

He told GMTV: "Those plane-spotters, when they were first arrested on 8 November, did not tell the whole story right from the beginning and that is part of the reason why the proceedings have been delayed."

Dr Papadakis claimed they had already been "very clearly" advised that it was foolish to go around air bases and take photographs in restricted zones.

Judicial task

He told the Today programme that his government could do nothing more to help the Britons.

In a well functioning democracy, governments cannot interfere with the task of justice

Dr Nikos Papadakis,
Greek Embassy in London
Greece shared the "concern and sensitivity" of UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, who telephoned his Greek counterpart Costas Simitis last week.

"We all hope for a very speedy resolution of this problem, but you know very well that this is really now in the hands of the judicial authorities," he said.

"In a well functioning democracy, governments cannot interfere with the task of justice."

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


But Steve Warren, whose mother Lesley Coppin is one of the accused, told GMTV that none of those held had taken photographs at any air bases.

He claimed the Greeks were "breaking their own laws".

"Under Greek law they have three to five days maximum to charge them and if they do not do so in this time they must set them free," he said.

His mother would be "distraught" about being kept in jail for so long.

All of those arrested deny spying charges, which carry a 20-year maximum sentence, and their detention has triggered a storm of protest from international human rights groups.

The group is expected to spend up to 13 more days in jail awaiting a further hearing - which will be conducted in camera with only lawyers present.

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 Britons in custody are:

  • Lesley and Paul Coppin, aged 51 and 57, of Mildenhall, Suffolk;
  • Peter Norris, 52, of Uxbridge, west London;
  • Antoni Adamiak, 37, of London;
  • Andrew Jenkins, 32, of York;
  • Wayne Groves, 38, of Tamworth;
  • Michael Bussell, 47, of Swanland, near Hull;
  • Michael Keane, 57, of Dartford, Kent;
  • Steven Rush, 38;
  • Christopher Wilson, 46;
  • Graham Arnold, 38;
  • Gary Fagan, 28.

Gary Fagan, one of the imprisoned planespotters
"We are just tourists on holiday"
Dr Nikos Papadakis from the Greek embassy in London
"We hope for a speedy resolution"
Baroness Ludford
"The situation is ridiculous"
See also:

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