6 November 2002

Plane-spotters walk free

A group of eleven British plane-spotters convicted of spying and other related charges in Greece have had their convictions quashed on appeal.

A three-judge panel in a court in the coastal town of Kalamata also overturned the convictions of two Dutchmen found guilty with the Britons.

Paul Coppin in the Kalamata court

A 12th Briton who was among the 14 plane-spotters arrested near a military base outside Kalamata last November had decided not to take part in the appeal.

At their trial in April, eight of the plane-spotters, including the Dutchmen, were given three-year jail terms for spying.

The six other Britons were handed one-year suspended sentences for aiding and abetting with the espionage.

All 14 had been freed on bail pending the appeal. The group's ill-fated trip to Greece had been organised by Paul Coppin, 46, of Mildenhall, Suffolk, and his wife Lesley, 51.

The fate of the plane-spotters had been hanging in the balance earlier today after the public prosecutor recommended half should be acquitted but left the others still facing prison terms.

The spotters were accused of endangering national security by collecting the serial numbers of planes with two reports by the Greek security services agreeing that the information was classified.

Yannis Zacharias, the lawyer for the group, said he supported the recommendation to acquit those facing the lesser charge, but called for all of them to go free.

The six Britons convicted last year of spying were Antoni Adamiak, 37, from London; Graham Arnold, 39, of Ottershaw, Surrey; Paul Coppin, 46, of Mildenhall, Suffolk; Garry Fagan, 31, of Kegworth, Leicestershire; Andrew Jenkins, 33, of York; and Peter Norris, 53, of Uxbridge, Middlesex.

The six found guilty of aiding and abetting were Lesley Coppin, 51, also of Mildenhall; Michael Bursell, of Swanland, near Hull; Wayne Groves, 39, of Tamworth, Staffordshire; Steve Rush, 38, of Caterham, Surrey; Christopher Wilson, 47, of Gatwick, West Sussex; and Michael Keane, 57, of Dartford, Kent.

Mr Keane, was advised not to return to Greece on health grounds after suffering depression and decided to abandon his appeal against his one-year suspended sentence. That sentence now remains against him.