25 April 2002

Plane-spotters in court to face spying charges

By Sean O'Neill in Kalamata

Twelve British plane-spotters went on trial for espionage yesterday, nearly six months after they were arrested at a Greek air force open day.

The group, including Lesley Coppin, 51, who went on the trip to accompany her new husband Paul, 46, and ended up spending 37 days in prison, were in court at Kalamata for just two minutes.

An hour before arriving, they were told that they would have to pay £61 each, in cash, towards administrative costs before the case could start.

In all, 14 defendants - the Britons plus two Dutch aviation enthusiasts - were summoned. Witnesses will include an MEP, two Greek air force squadron leaders and the editor of Jane's World Air Forces.

When they were called, after four hours during which a series of minor cases were dealt with, the court president, Fotoula Fotopoulou, told them: "The court session has been terminated and we will begin in the morning at 9am".

"That was very frustrating, having to wait for so long for a two-minute hearing," said Mrs Coppin from Mildenhall, Suffolk. "But I'm still feeling confident that we will be acquitted."

The plane-spotters were arrested in November at Kalamata airbase, south-eastern Greece, and imprisoned until just before Christmas when they were released on bail of £9,000 each.

In addition to Mr and Mrs Coppin, the Britons are: Steve Rush, 38, of Caterham, Surrey; Peter Norris, 52, Uxbridge, west London; Antoni Adamiak, 37, London; Andrew Jenkins, 32, York; Michael Bussell, 47, Hull; Michael Keane, 57, Dartford, Kent; Christopher Wilson, 46, Horsham, Sussex; Graham Arnold, 38, Ottershaw, Surrey; Gary Fagan, 28, Kegworth, Leics, and Wayne Groves, 38, Tamworth, Staffs.