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Friday, 26 April, 2002, 16:26 GMT 17:26 UK
Greek court convicts plane-spotters
The group of 12 British and two Dutch plane-spotters in the courthouse at Kalamata
The group had been hopeful of being cleared
Eight of the 14 plane-spotters accused of spying at a military airshow in Greece have been found guilty of espionage.

The remaining six of the group of 12 Britons and two Dutchmen have been found guilty of aiding and abetting.


The verdict bears no relation whatsoever to the evidence given

MEP Richard Howe

Those found guilty of espionage, which include the two Dutchmen, were each sentenced to three years.

It is understood they will be able to go home while they appeal against their sentence.

Those found guilty of the lesser charge were given sentences of one year each suspended for three years.

'Ludicrous' decision

One of those found guilty of espionage, Paul Coppin, said after the verdict: "I wasn't expecting this at all.


The legal process ahead:

  • Lawyers have lodged an appeal against the convictions of all 14 plane-spotters
  • The appeal is likely to be heard in the Supreme Court Nafplion, in the Peloponnese region
  • Defence lawyer Nikos Salavrakos says it is likely to be heard within a year
  • "The press have been here to see the evidence in the court and can see the case is ludicrous."

    Plane-spotter Steven Rush has vowed to return to Greece to appeal against his one-year suspended sentence.

    He said he was "extremely annoyed" that they had been separated into two groups on the basis of who had notebooks.

    "We were all in Greece together.

    "We were in two vans. We went round together and did the same thing."

    He said he did not see the distinction between the two groups.

    Stephen Jakobi, director of Fair Trials Abroad, said this verdict would have wider repercussions.

    "I've forecast all along that if the Greeks got this one wrong the shock waves would be felt throughout Europe."

    'Stunned'

    Familes and friends of the plane-spotters have told the BBC of their disbelief at the verdicts.

    Mr Coppin's mother, speaking from Norfolk, told the BBC she found the verdict "unbelievable."

    Jean Butt said from her home in Norfolk: "My son has three young boys at home."

    And Julie Wilson, wife of Christopher Wilson, said: "Greece was supposed to be the birthplace of democracy and justice.

    "Now it's shown it's the death."

    MEP Richard Howitt, who has campaigned tirelessly on behalf of the plane-spotters, said he was stunned by the result.

    "The verdict bears no relation whatsoever to the evidence given.

    "I can only think that there was no prospect of a fair trial.

    "We are talking about a guilty conviction, the prospect of a prison sentence even with a year away.

    "These people's lives have been blighted".

    He said they had suffered financial hardship with their bail payments and their jobs were on the line.

    Defence lawyer Yannis Zacharias said: "I expected them not to stay in prison. That is what I promised."

    Invitation

    The three Greek judges delivered their verdict on Friday afternoon, after three days of evidence.

    The group had denied the espionage charges, which carry a maximum penalty of five years in jail or a hefty fine.

    They were arrested at an airshow in Kalamata, southern Greece, last November, and charged with taking pictures in a military zone.

    The plane-spotters insisted they were at the show on the invitation of the Greek authorities and that any information collected was already freely available.

    But Greek prosecutors told the court in Kalamata they knew what they were doing was illegal and could compromise the country's national security.

    They spent five weeks in prison before being released on 14 Dec after posting bail of 9,000 each.

    Originally they faced a felony charge of spying, which carries a 20-year sentence, but this was later downgraded to misdemeanour charges.

    Those found guilty of espionage are:

    • Paul Coppin, 45, of Mildenhall, Suffolk
    • Peter Norris, 52, of Uxbridge, west London
    • Antoni Adamiak, 37, of London
    • Andrew Jenkins, 32, from York
    • Graham Arnold, 38, from Ottershaw, Surrey
    • Gary Fagan, 30, from Kegworth, Leicestershire
    • Patrick Dirksen, 27, from Eindhoven, Netherlands
    • Frank Mink, 28, from Den Helder, Netherlands

    Those found guilty of aiding and abetting are:

    • Lesley Coppin, 51, Mildenhall, Suffolk
    • 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
    • Wayne Groves, 38, from Tamworth, Staffordshire
     WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    The BBC's Emma Simpson
    "The plane-spotters are all now convicted spies"
    Plane-spotter Steven Rush
    "We will come back to Greece and fight on appeal"
    Dr Nikolas Papadakis of the Greek Embassy in London
    "I do not think there is any question about the fairness of the trial"
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