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EDITIONS
Monday, 28 October, 2002, 16:15 GMT
Greek boost for plane-spotters
The British plane-spotters
The group say the Greek military influenced their trial
The Greek prime minister has said there will be a "positive development" for the British plane-spotters convicted of spying, after talks with Tony Blair.

Costas Simitis arrived at Downing Street at 1300 GMT and shook hands with Mr Blair, who is said to have put the case at the top of the agenda.

After 90 minutes of talks, Mr Simitis held a press conference where he revealed the two leaders had discussed issues including asylum seekers and the Elgin marbles, as well as the plane-spotters case.


We hope that we will receive a fair trial with the defence evidence actually being considered by the judges before reaching a verdict

Paul Coppin
Plane-spotter
He said: "The case will be decided by a Greek tribunal on 5 November.

"There will be a positive development, but in our legal system it's up to the courts to decide."

When pressed on what "positive development" meant, Mr Simitis replied: "Positive development means the case will be thoroughly examined by the court."

The group of plane-spotters have demanded assurances they will get a fair hearing when they return for an appeal next week.

The 12 claim that the Greek security service had "improper influence" on their court case in Kalamata in April.

MEP Richard Howitt, who has campaigned for the group since their arrest last November, said he had met Mr Blair's foreign affairs adviser.

"The message of the plane-spotters is getting through."

Mr Howitt told BBC News Online the 12 wanted a promise that their appeal would be "open, fair and transparent".

The Britons and two Dutch men were convicted at the earlier trial after being arrested at an air show in southern Greece last November.

Eight of the Britons were found guilty of spying and given three-year jail sentences, but were allowed to return home pending their appeals.

The remaining six plane-spotters were found guilty of aiding and abetting and given one-year suspended sentences.

One of those found guilty of spying, Paul Coppin, from Mildenhall in Suffolk, said: "We hope that we will receive a fair trial with the defence evidence actually being considered by the judges before reaching a verdict."

Peter Norris hugs his wife after sentencing
The sentencing came as a shock
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, his wife Lesley Coppin said: "It's only just recently we received the transcripts of the judgement of the trial and I think everybody was shocked when they saw that the whole transcript failed to mention any of the defence evidence whatsoever."

Eleven of the 12 British spotters are to return to Kalamata for the appeal.

Mick Keane, of Dartford, Kent, has been told not to go back on health grounds but the group will take a letter from him and he continues to protest his innocence.

The group will be returning to Greece over the coming week.

Mr Coppin said: "We believe the eyes of the world could be watching this trial," he added.

"We hope the authorities will ensure we can return to our families and homes next week as free men and women, innocent in the eyes of the law."

Those found guilty of espionage were:

  • 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 were:

  • 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

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Plane-spotters Paul and Lesley Coppin
"We're really not sure what's going to happen"

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