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Thursday, 29 November, 2001, 18:42 GMT
Plane-spotter insists group is innocent
Plane spotters at Kalamata Court House awaiting their appearance
The plane-spotters are being held in custody
One of the British plane-spotters held on suspicion of spying in Greece has denied the group was doing anything wrong.

Speaking exclusively to the BBC, Gary Fagan said they were "never warned" to stop their activities.

His comments came as the European Union put pressure on Greece to speed up the case of the 12 British and two Dutch plane-spotters.


The Greeks are trying to say we were warned three times. We were never warned at all

Gary Fagan, plane-spotter

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 speaking from prison in Kalamata, Mr Fagan said: "The Greeks are trying to say we were warned three times. We were never warned at all."

'Appalled'

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

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

Conservative MEP Geoffrey Van Orden is among those who have stepped into the row, urging a quick resolution to the plane-spotters' case.

He said he was "appalled at the latest turn of events".

"They had been in prison for a week before anyone took a serious interest in the plight of these people.

British plane-spotters detained in Greece
The three-week detention goes on

"The Greek authorities had admitted that the matter had been badly handled and was turning into a diplomatic embarrassment.

"They gave me concrete assurances that the matter would be resolved satisfactorily yesterday. So much for their word."

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

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

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.


This is a scandal and makes Greece look ridiculous

Robert Key MP

"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."

Speaking in the Commons on Thursday, Conservative MP Robert Key said: "This is a scandal and makes Greece look ridiculous."

Leader of the House Robin Cook said the government would continue to press the Greek authorities at every level.

But Dr Nikos Papadakis, from the Greek Embassy in London, insists the 12 Britons - 11 men and one woman - had been warned off another air base a few days earlier.

Speaking on GMTV Dr Papadakis said: "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."

'Making notes'

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

Stephen Jakobi of Fair Trials Abroad said he hoped Tony Blair would discuss the plight of the plane spotters at Downing Street talks with the French President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.

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

They were originally 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.

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Dr Nikos Papadakis from the Greek embassy in London
"We hope for a speedy resolution"
Baroness Ludford
"The situation is ridiculous"
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