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Plane spotters release delayed

PUBLISHED: 12:52 07 December 2001 | UPDATED: 10:59 03 March 2010

The British plane spotters held in Greece on spying charges must wait until next week to see if any of them will be released.

Prosecutors were today to submit a key report on the 12 Britons and two Dutch men to a panel of three judges who will then decide whether to refer the suspects to trial, release them on bail or charge them with lesser offences.

The British plane spotters held in Greece on spying charges must wait until next week to see if any of them will be released.

Prosecutors were today to submit a key report on the 12 Britons and two Dutch men to a panel of three judges who will then decide whether to refer the suspects to trial, release them on bail or charge them with lesser offences.

But even if the prosecutor submits his recommendation today, it must still be typed by a court secretary and would not likely reach the judges before Monday, said the group's lawyer, Iannis Zacharias.

"Not the president, not (Russian President Vladimir) Putin, who is visiting today, not even the Sixth Fleet could get them out today," Zacharias said. "Only the council can do that.'

The plane spotters have been behind bars since November 8. They claim they did not violate the ban on photography at military air bases and were only engaged in their hobby of meticulously observing aviation operations.

The judges will have the final say, but the prosecutor's recommendation will give an indication of which way the case could be heading, Zacharias said.

If the judges decide to proceed with an espionage trial, the suspects face a maximum of 20 years in prison if convicted.

By Greek standards, the case has progressed through the system relatively quickly, Zacharias said, noting that about one third of people jailed in Greece are in pre-trial detention.

"Many of them spend four to six months for their cases to get to the councils. That is the system,' he said.


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