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Friday, 26 April, 2002, 08:30 GMT 09:30 UK
Plane-spotters to learn fate
Lesley and Paul Coppin
Lesley and Paul Coppin are among the 12 Britons
A verdict is expected on Friday in the case of the 12 British and two Dutch plane-spotters accused of spying in Greece.

The case has resumed in the Athens court with closing statements from the defence and prosecution lawyers expected shortly.

Most of the evidence was heard in a marathon 17-hour session on Thursday.

At one point, exhausted interpreters staged a mini-rebellion and walked out leaving only one colleague - who was being paid just 10 for her long day's work - to translate testimony from the defendants.

I concluded the purpose of their presence was to collect classified information

Squadron Leader Nektarios Samaras

The trial heard from several witnesses for both the defence and the prosecution.

Paul Jackson, editor of Jane's All the World's Aircraft, told the court a 1992 convention, to which both Greece and Turkey were signatories, obliged European nations to be "completely transparent" in terms of military information.

He said any information gained by the spotters would have been "minuscule" compared to that passed by Greece to other countries including Turkey on a regular basis.

The editor of the Greek Radio Telecommunications magazine, Nick Kassimis, said the group were quite clearly not spies.

Asked about scanners which pick up military frequencies - one of which was found in the group's vehicle - he said spotters often used them, and they were harmless.

Photograph ban

Appearing for the prosecution was the military mechanic who first found them.

He told the court the group ignored signs at the airfield not to take photographs.

Lieutenant Ioannis Balas said they should have known this also applied to note-taking and wandering around the base.

Squadron Leader Nektarios Samaras, of the Greek Air Force, said he could not understand the group's claim they were writing down aircraft numbers as part of their hobby.

"I concluded the purpose of their presence was to collect classified information," he said.

The 12 Britons were arrested, along with the two Dutch plane-spotters, at an airshow in Kalamata, southern Greece, last November.

An exhausted translator tries to keep up

They deny espionage charges which carry a maximum penalty of five years in jail or a hefty fine.

Their tour leader, Paul Coppin, gave his occupation as "professional plane-spotter" and explained to the Greek court how the hobby worked.

"There are no rules. There are some plane spotters that would just be happy to watch aircraft, some people like to take photographs, some like to keep records," he said.

He told the court a brigadier general in the Greek Air Force had given the group permission to visit "as many bases as we could" during open days the Greek military was holding.

Mr Coppin said he had not realised it might be frowned upon to take notes outside an airbase.

The judge is believed to be rushing the case through because a week-long Greek Orthodox holiday starts on Friday, although defence lawyers had also requested it be continued into the night.

Speaking from Greece, the BBC's Jane Hughes said the plane-spotters hoped to be on their pre-booked flight home on Saturday.

She said they were "hopeful but not completely confident" that they would be successful.

The accused are:

  • Paul Coppin, 45, and his wife Lesley, 51, of Mildenhall, Suffolk
  • Peter Norris, 52, of Uxbridge, west London
  • Antoni Adamiak, 37, of London
  • Andrew Jenkins, 32, from York
  • Michael Bussell, 47, of Swanland, near Hull
  • Michael Keane, 57, of Dartford, Kent
  • Steven Rush, 38, from Caterham, Surrey
  • Christopher Wilson, 46, from Gatwick, West Sussex;
  • Graham Arnold, 38, from Ottershaw, Surrey
  • Gary Fagan, 30, from Kegworth, Leicestershire
  • Wayne Groves, 38, from Tamworth, Staffordshire
  • Patrick Dirksen, 27, from Eindhoven
  • Frank Mink, 28, from Den Helder.
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