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Tuesday, 19 November, 2002, 12:09 GMT
Plane-spotters seek EU law change
Paul and Lesley Coppin
Paul and Lesley Coppin spent six weeks in jail
Two British plane-spotters cleared of spying in Greece are heading to the European Parliament to try to secure a change in the law following their ordeal.

Paul and Lesley Coppin want to ensure British tourists are never treated the same way they were, by Greek or any EU-member authorities.

With the backing of their MEP Richard Howitt, who is taking up their case, they will call for common judicial standards to be applied across Europe.

Paul Coppin
Paul Coppin says case was an ordeal
The Coppins and Mr Howitt were meeting a group of MEPs in Strasbourg on Tuesday ahead of the East Anglian MEP raising the matter at a European Parliament committee meeting on Wednesday.

Mr Coppin, from Mildenhall, Suffolk, said: "We will be doing a bit of lobbying about common judicial standards and the different systems across Europe.

"We will see how it all works and keep up the campaigning so this doesn't happen to anyone else."

Mr Coppin and his wife were among 12 Britons and two Dutch men arrested for spying last November during a plane spotting holiday in Greece.


The Coppins are very determined that what they went through, no-one should ever have to face again

Richard Howitt MEP
At their trial in April Paul Coppin, five other Britons and the two Dutch men were found guilty of spying and sentenced to three years in jail.

Lesley Coppin and the other five Britons were convicted of aiding and abetting them and given one year suspended sentences.

They were freed pending their appeal and 13 of the 14 were acquitted at an appeal hearing earlier this month.

One man, Michael Keane, of Dartford, Kent, waived his right to appeal after his doctors advised him not to return to Greece on health grounds.

The spotters all endured six weeks behind bars after their arrests and estimate that the fight to clear their names cost them some 25,000 each.

At the end of their appeal, many politicians and the campaign group Fair Trials Abroad warned that common judicial standards needed to be introduced across Europe ahead of the introduction of the Europe-wide arrest warrant scheme in a year's time.

Compensation claims

Speaking to BBC News Online from Strasbourg, Mr Howitt said: "It is very important that lessons are learned from the plane spotters' case.

"The Coppins are very determined that what they went through, no-one should ever have to face again.

"We are seeking changes to EU law so that other tourists don't face the same ordeal as in Greece, or in any other European country.

MEP Richard Howitt
Mr Howitt says lessons must be learned
"We want to show the weak links that were exposed by this case.

"We need common rights for defendants so that they don't become victims in the whole process."

Over the two days, Mr Howitt and the Coppins will meet a number of MEPs and European officials.

Mr Coppin, who described himself as a "professional plane spotter" during the trial, said they also hoped to make enquiries in Strasbourg about their case for compensation.


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