23 January 2002

We did not have spy gear, say spotters

By Sean O'Neill

A group of British planespotters facing trial in Greece said yesterday that they feared they would not receive a fair hearing because of false allegations that they had used surveillance equipment.

Peter Norris, one of the planespotters, said they hoped to return to Greece in April to face charges of gathering secret information.

Mr Norris, of Uxbridge, west London, said he was alarmed by Greek press reports that the group had had global positioning satellite devices and high-resolution cameras. He said: "Those reports are pure fabrication and disinformation."

The 11 men and one woman were held for six weeks in jail after being arrested with two Dutch planespotters in November at a military airfield. They were released on bail when espionage charges were replaced with less serious offences of gathering secret information.

Yesterday, they were assured by Lady Amos, the junior Foreign Office minister, that they would continue to receive assistance and support from the Government.

The group said the minister had apologised for poor communication between Foreign Office staff and their families during their imprisonment.

Richard Howitt, Labour MEP for the East of England, who has campaigned for the group, said the British embassy in Athens would now monitor reports about the case in the Greek media.