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Bail for plane spotters at a price

PUBLISHED: 14:40 12 December 2001 | UPDATED: 11:01 03 March 2010

THE British and Dutch plane spotters accused of spying in Greece are to be released on bail if they come up with a total of £127,000 in bail money.

Three judges also decided to reduce the charges against the 14.

THE British and Dutch plane spotters accused of spying in Greece are to be released on bail if they come up with a total of £127,000 in bail money.

Three judges also decided to reduce the charges against the 14.

They will be free to return home after depositing bail of £9,078 each. They could be released by nightfall, but their defence team said they will probably leave the jail tomorrow after the bail is collected.

"I am completely happy. It's what we were trying for," said defence lawyer Iannis Zacharias.

Each of the plane spotters now faces a single charge of illegal information collection, Zacharias said.

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The defence team appeared before the judges in Kalamata yesterday to argue their case, pressing for the group's release on bail.

The 13 men are being held in a prison in the town of Nafplion, 56 miles southwest of Athens, while the sole woman, British grandmother Lesley Coppin, 51, is in Korydallos prison near Athens.

Zacharias said the prosecutor handling the case had recommended in a 36 page report that the whole group face trial for espionage or as accomplices.

The 12 British and two Dutch plane spotters have been in jail since their November 8 arrest after attending air force day at a Kalamata military air base.

They claim they did not violate the ban on photography at military installations and were only engaged in their hobby of observing and taking notes about aircraft.

Greek authorities say the group was warned on three occasions before their arrest that photography was not allowed in military areas and that their activities were regarded as suspicious. Plane spotting is virtually unknown in Greece, which has a tradition of tight military controls because of long-standing tensions with neighbouring Turkey.

Greece had come under increasing pressure from Britain and the Netherlands to have the case resolved swiftly. But the government insists it cannot intervene in the country's judicial process, which is independent.


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