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Saturday, 27 April, 2002, 10:41 GMT 11:41 UK
Plane-spotters vow to appeal
Steven Rush with his three-year-old daughter Isla
The plane-spotters have been reunited with family
The British plane-spotters convicted of spying charges in Greece have pledged to fight to clear their names as they return to the UK.

Speaking at Luton airport on Saturday morning, they told how they were "horrified" at the verdicts delivered less than 24 hours earlier.

I am an innocent man except I now have a criminal record

Michael Bursell

But they vowed to return to Greece to appeal against their convictions and, if necessary, to take their cases as far as the European courts.

The six Britons and two Dutchmen found guilty of espionage at a military air show were sentenced to three years in prison but allowed home to appeal against their jail term.

The remaining six Britons were found guilty of aiding and abetting and were given sentences of one year each, suspended for three years.

Their return to the UK comes after a legal expert warned that they may have to go to Europe to get their convictions overturned.

Lifetime hobby

At Luton airport, plane-spotter Michael Bursell told BBC News that he was determined to overturn this "miscarriage of justice," despite spiralling legal costs.

"I am an innocent man except I now have a criminal record," he said.

Paul Coppin demonstrates his hobby
Paul Coppin organised the trip
Mr Bursell, who received a suspended sentence for aiding and abetting spying, said: "It is not acceptable to take this lying down.

"I have been pursuing this interest for 30 years and visited many countries and have never been treated in this way."

Paul Coppin, of Suffolk, who was found guilty of espionage, said he, and the rest of the group, had been left completely "horrified" by the decision of the Greek court.

His wife Lesley said she was "disgusted."

Labour Euro MP Richard Howitt, who flew home with the group, said they had been "let down" by the Greek nation and fallen victim to pride and not common sense.

"It seems little regard was paid to whether they were really guilty or not, and I applaud them for vowing to fight on," he said.

Legal warning

Human rights lawyer Stephen Jakobi, of Fair Trials Abroad, had earlier warned the group they would have to go to Europe to clear their names.

"I don't believe there is a cat in hell's chance of getting anywhere in the Greek courts," he said.

Lesley Coppin arrives home
Lesley Coppin: Disgusted with Greek justice
He warned that the plane-spotters could not afford to pay for an expensive appeal that would inevitably fail.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has said that he was "shocked" by the scale of the sentences.

He pledged continued support from him and his staff.

Downing Street said Prime Minister Tony Blair believed the case had been "disproportionate" and had discussed it with his Greek counterpart, Costas Simitis.

National security

The plane-spotters had denied the espionage charges.

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

The group insisted they were at the show on the invitation of the Greek authorities and 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.

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 Bursell, 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
The BBC's Clarence Mitchell
"The planespotters arrived home, denouncing the Greek decision"
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